“Oh! you’re a writer. Would you look at this piece I’ve written and tell me what you think?”
As a veteran writer, I enjoy encouraging new writers, But that question bothers me because I know how sensitive I was about the criticisms I received as a newbie. Since a harsh or careless criticism could deter a potentially good writer, I want to be gentle enough to encourage the writer’s growth, but honest enough to help them see things that really need to be changed.
One of the ways I can do that is to become a model, a teacher and a mentor, and not a critic. Anyone can say, “You should change that,” or “This line doesn’t work for me.” But:
- As model I will critique my work to be sure I understand and follow the principles of writing I’m trying to explain to my student.
- As teacher I try to take time to explain why something is ineffective; offer suggestions for change based on what I’ve learned from others; as well as taking into consideration my student’s writing style.
- A mentor I let the student know I’ve had to work hard in the past to overcome similar issues in my writing and in some cases I still struggle with them when I sit down to write.
As Christians, we face a similar challenge. We are often quick to critique the lives of others in our zeal to see them walking on the “right” path. But how do we come across? If we are harsh or careless with our criticisms, we can drive others away rather than drawing them to Christ. We need to be:
- Models, so we can show others how to be a Christian by walking the walk. We must study God’s word for ourselves and work hard to apply its principles for living to our own lives first – especially aspects like love, compassion, giving and forgiveness.
- Teachers, taking time to listen to others around us so we can see when their hearts are open in those “teachable moments” for words of Scripture that offer comfort, instruction, guidance or correction.
- Mentors, living open, honest and transparent lives, and being realistic about our failures so others can learn from the ways we have overcome our hardships and shortcomings.
Lord, it’s easy to be a critic, but help me instead to do the more difficult work of a model, teacher and mentor so I can draw people to you and build up their faith. Amen.