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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On Being Critiqued

There is an interesting post by Michael Patton on the "Parchment and Pen" blog.

His column is about the embarrassment one feels in being critiqued, and shares experiences from his seminary days. I believe we as writers experience the same anxiety and humiliation at times as we hear the opinions of others.

Getting Theologically Humiliated
~ C Michael Patton ~

No one likes to be told they are wrong. Correction and critique are things we go out of our way to avoid. Those who can ask the tough questions about your life—probing deep when they suspect some spiritual sickness—are not often not welcome friends. We don’t pick up the phone when they call. We avoid them at work. We don’t return their emails. Why? Because they can tell us the skinny about our life and we don’t want to hear it. We are prideful people who, like the priest, choose to walk far around the problems in our life, and we ask others to do the same.

As problematic as this mentality is with regards to things having to do with moral integrity, I believe that the problem is just as severe with regards to theological integrity.

Everyone hates to be critiqued. I remember going into seminary with a good deal of pride and arrogance. I did not recognize it at the time, but now that I look back now I can see it. I remember in my first preaching course, I could not wait to get in front of the other students and the professor and deliver my masterpiece. They would call me “Michael the Golden Mouth.” Oh yeah . . . recognition was coming. But my teacher did not see things the way my mind’s-eye had envisioned. I remember I preached for fifteen minutes on the Psalms. Afterwords I had to sit down and listen to my professor rip me to shreds in front of twenty other seminary students who gawked in fear as they knew they were next. Here is the type of critique we came to expect.

“Where did you come up with that? That is not in the text. Good sermon, wrong text.”
“You selectively used that translation because it supported your view.”
“That was completely boring. Your audience will be thinking about the football game within two minutes.”
“You need to go home and come back and tell us what the text really means.”

This hurt. Many students want to drop out of seminary after their first evaluation. We have to have post-sermon-support-groups encouraging others that this still may be God’s call for them.

***** Visit Michael's blog to read the rest and a variety of comments.

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