Constructive or Destructive?
I’ve often heard from people offering criticism that what I was about to hear from them was ‘constructive criticism.’ This type of criticism is designed to provide information that can help me become more aware of a shortcoming or area of improvement, or it could reinforce an opinion or thought I may have about myself or heard from another.
If there is constructive criticism – reason would suggest that there is non-constructive criticism – which is plain old vanilla criticism. Vanilla criticism is therefore destructive in nature. Destructive criticism may be directly or indirectly communicated – but the result is usually the same: Sadness, shame, self doubt, self pity, etc.
My codependent nature has made me a perfectionist. Never wanting to appear less than, stupid or unprepared – I have gone out of my way to create a public persona that suggests confidence, intelligence and preparation. When anyone suggests that they want to give me feedback that might be constructive criticism or I hear directly or indirectly destructive criticism, my perfectionist nature takes a hit and I have found it was very tough to live without my addictive medication.
In recovery, I have learned from my relationship with my sponsors and my community, that constructive criticism is a gift from those who care about me. I also believe that destructive criticism can be a gift too. How can this be? I may disagree with the person’s criticism – and even its method, intention or tone, but I must be honest with myself and ask what truth is God is exposing me too? Maybe what I heard is the absolute truth. Maybe it is not. Maybe it is an opportunity to choose a different reaction? Maybe God is presenting me an opportunity to let go of my codependent tendencies and practice confrontation (sticking up for myself) – or forgiveness? If I stay open to the idea that there are no coincidences in life – I hear what I need to hear when I need to hear it – I can take this moment as an opportunity to practice life and to be grateful to God for the opportunity. Nobody gets better without practice so embrace the criticism.
This belief has served me well in what I have critically heard. But I also have to remember that I too can give criticism. I must ask myself: when I give criticism is it out of love or fear? Is it with the best of intention or intended to hurt? The former is in service to another – the latter is in service to self. One encourages my recovery the other sets it back.
So what have I learned?
I have learned that I must have the courage to give constructive criticism and I must do so in love with the intention of personal growth for the other person and myself. I must have the courage to hear constructive criticism in love directly from the person of good intention. I must also have the courage to hear destructive criticism – then embrace it as an opportunity to listen to what God wants me to hear. What I do with that message is up to me.
I have also learned that I must not betray others by criticizing or gossiping behind their back. I must not betray my true self (the person God intends me to be) by allowing others to criticize or gossip behind the backs of others as this is nothing more than cowardice and recovery is for the courageous.
-- written by esoberbuddy