How to Give and Receive Feedback as a Creative

April 28, 2020

By: Kenny Klinglesmith

“And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God…” – Mark 12:14a

Although the context of this verse dealt with a group of Pharisees attempting to flatter Jesus before trying to publicly humiliate him, this was a fair assessment of Christ’s character. Jesus taught the way of God and did not let the opinions of others move him. I know that for me (and I assume many of us), as musicians and creatives, we struggle with caring about the approval of man and the opinions of others concerning our talents, our appearances, and our character. Yet, before we are musicians and creatives, we are people who are striving to follow Jesus and look more like him. How do we reckon with this verse, and how do we strive for this kind of Christ-like character?

Soft Heart, Thick Skin

Vulnerability is scary. Even allowing someone you trust to speak into your weaknesses requires courage. We can’t know the weaknesses of our character without trusted friends who have permission to speak into those sensitive areas. It also requires a personal toughness. Chris Collins from the Austin Stone Community Church says that musicians and creatives who serve the church need to have soft hearts and thick skin. In other words, we need to have hearts that are humble, and have the maturity to receive feedback without getting puffed up or crushed. If this already feels like too difficult of a task, I want you to pause, shut off this article, and I want you to ask God to give you a soft heart and thick skin. Friend, you are praying to the one who didn’t let flattery or ruthless criticism shake him in his identity or mission. He is able to do it!

Do Surgery, Don’t Just Slash

On the other hand, if you have the privilege of giving someone else feedback, you’re not free to slice away with words! There is a certain kindness and wisdom required from a person giving feedback. Words can cut deep; we all know that from experience. But there is a difference between reckless slashing and doing surgery. Some of my greatest moments of growth in my character and skill have come from someone loving me enough to give me feedback that stung in the moment, but made a lifelong impact of good. Pastor Garrett Kell says that the chief goal in any Christian relationship should be to help each other mature in Christ, which means feedback must be aimed at building each other up, not tearing each other down (2 Cor 13:10).

Know Whose You Are, and Say Thank You

Proverbs 27:21 says, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” Have you ever thought about how your reception of encouragement or constructive criticism says a lot about your character? Every single one of us is going to fail at this, and that is okay. Sometimes, we’ll let feedback crush us and define us. Sometimes, we’ll be so driven by the encouragement of others that we’ll do anything to crave it. The best way to stay grounded is a two-fold approach: 1. Know Whose you are and 2. Just say thank you. Jesus was not swayed by encouragement or criticism because the only One he wanted to please was the Father, and the Father was clearly pleased with him (Matt. 3:17). Friend, if you are in Christ, know that He is fully pleased with you, too. Don’t forget it. Secondly, when you are encouraged or criticized, stop making excuses, stop deflecting… just say “thank you.” It’s amazing how these two words can defuse a situation or help you receive encouragement that you genuinely deserve. I pray that we would be people who have the humility to receive feedback, the boldness to give it in love, and are grounded enough in Christ to give Him glory through it all!