In my recent post, “Sharing Truth in Love and Grace”, I discussed feedback and how it is an opportunity for self-growth. Feedback should point us towards making more appropriate choices in the future.
A reader, Jenneke, replied to the blog post and made a great observation about how hard it can be to give feedback. She wrote, “it is hard to find the right words to say in feedback in love and grace and for myself I often start to stumble when I think the other person takes it the wrong way. I hope you will write more about this subject because I want to learn more.”
Most of us can identify with her experience. Our hearts can pound even if we just think about having to tell someone a hard truth. We worry about how the other person will receive our words. Flustered and struggling our words can end up being muddled.
Feedback it is a communication skill seldom role modeled for us and rarely taught. As a result, it tends to be done poorly and received badly – so we end up just wanting to avoid it altogether.
And yet, Scripture calls us to give feedback to one another. (Titus 2:15; Luke 17:3; 2 Timothy 2:25, 4:1-5; 1 Timothy 5:20; Matthew 18:15) Scripture says that it is better to hear the honest truth – than flattery and lies. (Ecclesiastes. 7:5; Proverbs 27:5, 28:23)
Scripture also says that giving feedback and correction to another is actually more loving than saying nothing (Psalm 141:5; James 5:19-20). “A refusal to correct is a refusal to love”(Proverbs 13:24, The Message). God commands that we help correct one another, in love and grace, just as He rebukes those He loves. (Revelation 3:19)
It is not enough to just be caring, express support, or provide encouragement. We are also called to give feedback. It has the potential to help others gain new perspectives and adjust their behavior.
So the point is not whether we should give feedback. It is more a question of how to give it so that others will be most able to receive it.
So in response to Jenneke’s request, here are a few suggestions about feedback that may be helpful:
- Speak the truth (2 Corinthians 4:2). Keep comments based on what has been observed or discerned. Share the specific concern or worry, followed by a suggestion for what would be preferable in the future.
- Share the feedback in love. Any feedback must originate out of our love for others. The likelihood feedback will be received increases – when the comments are couched within genuine love. As 1 Corinthians 13:1 shares, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”.
- Feedback needs to be accompanied by grace. Phillip Yancy in his book” What’s So Amazing about Grace“, admits he struggles to clearly define grace because it is somewhat difficult to pin down. But he explains it as primarily being the opposite of what we would expect when we mess up or sin. That rather than receiving anger, abandonment, punishment, resentment, grudges, or revenge – we get forgiveness and love – even though it is undeserved. “Grace is an attitude towards others. It is the one distinctive God has given the church”. So when we give feedback to someone it must reflect God’s love, and always be accompanied with a forgiving, gentle attitude (Galatians 6:1)
- It is important to take time to first work through our own hurt or anger, before we approach others with feedback.
- Feedback is best when it is simple and clear. It should be no more than one or two sentences, in plain language.
- Deal with only one issue at a time.
- It is preferable to deal with a concern reasonably quickly after it has first been noticed.(Hebrews 3:13)
- Taking the time to prepare and rehearse the feedback is more likely to ensure well-spoken feedback.
- Jenneke mentioned how our nervousness can make us stumble. One suggestion for this is to start by being honest about how you are feeling. Admitting your truths – that because you love them you have something on your heart to share, but are nervous about it so are asking for their grace as you try – can set a more accepting context for the conversation.
- Others will be more responsive to our feedback if we have shown that we deal with our own stuff. When we have a humble spirit regarding our own sin, it is then we can look to helping others face and deal with their challenges. Scripture states, ‘How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)
In the end, it is important to mention that even though the feedback may be shared flawlessly there are no guarantees that others will be receptive. For any number of reasons, people can react negatively to feedback. Regardless of their response, we can hold onto one thing – that we have done our best to fully love others when we respond to God’s call to speak truth in love and grace.