pondering is a gift this morning. I woke up with a song in my head that belongs in another post entirely. while looking up the song and lyrics I got to wondering about the band and thought, “hey I can look that up!” so I did. The band broke up not because of some kind of ugliness but simply because it was time. Their work together was finished. They’d put the last stitches on their sleeve and quilt label, to use quilterly imagery.
Reading the messages from the now solo artist were encouraging: there’s a sense of grief as a result of the change but there’s also a sense of adventure a sense that this journey makes sense. He knows that all of this is part of life, the journey God takes us on and entrusts us with.
Then, I read a facebook post by Liz Gilbert about professional and personal criticism. With professional criticism it’s part of the work, it’s to be expected. Some will be helpful and some won’t. Some will guide us along our journey and some will be downright mean and that’s okay.
I appreciate her take on personal criticism. From her post:
“As for personal criticism, though? That’s harder. The more intimately I know and love you, the more your criticism will hurt me — and the worse my reaction will be to it, I am sorry to say. If you are a loved one of mine, your criticism will sometimes shut me down, sometimes it will enrage me, sometimes it will make me close my heart to you, sometimes it will cause me to rush to my own defense — perhaps even hysterically and irrationally. I wish to do better in this regard, and I’m always looking to learn how.”
And my own thoughts: the more I value your opinion of me, related or not, the harder it is. One of the things I’ve realized is that I need to change whose opinion I value. There are too many people there. Way too many. And I see, at the very same moment that I can be overly opinionated and something of a smart ass. Which sometimes makes it challenging for the hearer of a compliment to receive it well because they are left with doubt that I am genuinely praising them.
There are moments when I want to become more open and vulnerable and there are times when I need to close down and be protective. Discerning those relationships is essential to really learning how to and embracing criticism. One of the most difficult things for me is that despite my “outgoing tendencies” I am an introvert, I process things internally and tend to take things personally when they are not intended that way. I can over think things very easily. There is a greater opportunity here: taking everything to prayer. And I’ll tell you that is not as easy as it sounds. There are moments when I can be possessive of the ill that comes my way.
Ultimately I think criticism is a neutral thing – what changes it is the intention behind it. And that matters. One criticism I hear over and over again is how intense I am and how I should just relax. That’s like telling Niagara Falls to just stop. What does that even mean? One of the deepest benefits of my intensity is how I learn – I will go and go and go and go and go (particularly with the quilting) until I get it. That then becomes beneficial to my students as I’ve experienced most of the quilterly problems that they’ll encounter. One of the hard parts is that I can assign negative motives to criticism when none are intended.
I’m also seeing that I need to be mindful of how I criticize. Am I being mean? Do I have something legit to say? Does my thought or opinion matter here? What questions can I ask to help develop a deeper understanding, on my part, for the situation before criticizing.
Criticism of people and objects are completely different. Sewing machines, thread, needles, fabric those are opinions are based on my own personal experience of said object. Another quilter might like, enjoy and use that sewing machine, thread, needle, fabric with great success. Excellent. We just have differing opinions about Things. Things! Not people.
When I’m teaching and I hear students harshly criticizing themselves and their work I generally stop it cold. Inexperience does not give us the right to be mean to ourselves. The more critical we are of ourselves – the more critical we are of others. I want to encourage a gentleness in looking at our work. Nothing in quilting will ever be perfect. I’ve had a couple of amazing quilts – that I know where the flaws are. Am I going to point them out to you? Well, yes, because I’m your teacher and I want you to see that I mess up, make mistakes, my work is not perfect. Those are my learning moments. If I’m not in a teaching situation, then no, I’m not going to point them out to you. I’m grateful you haven’t noticed, or if you have can just appreciate the beauty of the quilts.
Go be gentle with you today, I’m headed in that direction myself.
happy quilting! and God bless,