Tuesday, January 10

Accountability and Constructive Criticism

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! --Ecclesiastes 4:10

Last weekend I got to spend an afternoon with one of my dearest friends from college. We live relatively close to one another, but our schedules prevent us from getting together very often. She is one of the few friends I have who is at a similar stage in life. I have always appreciated her insight and her ability to apply godly principles to her life, particularly as she has endured times of trial. We are always honest with each other about the things we struggle with, and we have taken turns being a comforter or encourager for the last five years. In a variety of ways, one of us will lift the other who has fallen.

I think we all need at least one friend like that--someone to whom we can say anything and get a completely honest reaction. Friends like that can call our bluffs, smack some sense into us when we're off track, and offer us constructive criticism without worrying about how it will be received. Those of us who are Christians are in particular need of someone to keep us accountable to living a lifestyle consistent with the faith we profess.

Accountability keeps us from getting an over-inflated sense of self, as does constructive criticism. This type of feedback is vital to our growth as Christians, and it does much to ensure that we are producing "good fruit" as described in John. For example, I rarely receive much feedback regarding each Pools of Grace that I write. Without someone to challenge my doctrinal background or my interpretation of a particular Bible passage, it can be very easy for me to get a big head and think that everything I say is basically theologically sound. Once in a great while, I receive a lengthy email probing further into my thought processes and challenging my beliefs. As is usually the case, constructive criticism "takes me down a peg."

A true friend is not only able to dole out constructive criticism, but is receptive to it as well. I am sincerely thankful for the friends I have who are just that type of friend. Without the checks and balances that stem from accountability and constructive criticism, I would never grow or make positive changes in my life, particularly in terms of spiritual development.



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