Affirmation #9: Pay Attention to Feedback
If we are going to go from being stuck to unstuck, we must begin to listen to the feedback that is surely coming to us. God has arranged the world so that we will always be receiving feedback on what is working and what is not working. Many times, we have become numb to what the feedback is saying because we don’t want to admit that something is not working. We don’t want to have to change what we are doing. Look at what Proverbs 1:20-23 tells us:
“Wisdom shouts in the streets, she lifts up her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings; How long, O naïve ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Turn into my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”
Not All Feedback Is Equal
There are bits of feedback that we must ignore, that which is not wise. These verses in Proverbs tell us that wisdom shouts in the streets. It is wisdom that we must listen to. When I talk about feedback to a live audience, I usually dramatize the need for feedback by asking someone to help me from the audience. I have them stationed on the other side of the stage. They are going to direct me how to get over to their side of the stage using only four words. I begin walking toward them, and if I am on course, they will say “on course.” If I am off course, then they will say “off course.”
Feedback Illustration #1
As I start walking, I purposefully wander around the stage. The volunteer says “off course,” “off course,” “off course,” and then occasionally “on course.” When I finally make it to the volunteer, everyone claps for the job they did to get me there, and then I ask a crucial question, “Which did the person say more, “on course” or “off course”? The answer is always off course. The lesson is that I got to the right destination, and yet I heard more, “You are off course,” than I heard, “You are on course.” This is the way feedback works.
There is much useful data in negative feedback, so I would like for you to change your feelings about negative feedback. It is simply information telling us of improvement opportunities. Too many of us are really saying “I want everything to be different, but I don’t want to change anything.” Let me tell you straight up ... this won’t happen. You have to become okay with negative feedback. It is telling you something. If you have less money in the bank. If you get turned down for the date. If you don’t get the job. If you have no one to hang out with. All of these are feedback and suggests that you are off course.
Feedback Illustration #2
The second feedback exercise that I conduct is to have the same volunteer try and direct me to their side of the stage with the same two phrases, only this time after wandering around and hearing “off course” a number of times, I just sit down and begin moaning and whining about how hard it is and how depressed I am becoming. “All I ever do is wrong.” “I don’t think I can go on.” We give up on ourselves because the feedback is not positive and affirming. We can’t give up because the feedback is true. It is feedback. So, don’t give up.
Feedback Illustration #3
The third feedback exercise that I conduct illustrates a third response to feedback that we have all experienced. The same volunteer is there to instruct me with the same phrases. They begin and I wander on course and off course a number of times. After a lengthy bit of off course meanderings, I just get mad and start yelling at the person who just keeps saying “off course,” “off course,” “off course.” I am screaming and stomping and accusing the person who is trying to help me of sabotaging my life. “If you could only be positive, then maybe I could make progress, but NO you have to just keep saying ‘OFF COURSE!’ I am sick and tired of it... it is your fault.” How many of us has gotten mad at the person who is honestly telling us that what we are doing is not working, and we need to make another change if we are going to be moving in the right direction? We tend to attack the messenger of real feedback.
Feedback Illustration #4
The final feedback exercise that I conduct is to have the same volunteer giving the same feedback words, but this time as I wander off course, I just look over at the person who just keeps saying “off course,” “off course,” “off course,” and yell “I QUIT! I am done with this whole thing. I never make any progress so I am done.” I walk off the stage and out of the room. It is amazing how many people were making progress toward the life they wanted, but they gave up because they didn’t want to hear that they had more changes to make. This is the nature of life. God is giving us feedback, and when He does, it means that we need to make some correction. The good is coming. The right direction is right there. Proverbs 4 tells us that the path of the righteous shines brighter and brighter like the dawn. We are getting it right more often than we were, and yet there is not a huge difference in the payoff or the look of what we are doing. But keep going. Keep making the corrections and don’t quit.
One of the saddest things that I have to share with people is what the Scripture says about those who quit and stop listening to the feedback that God is sending. Click to the Scriptures in the end of Proverbs 1:24-33 and read what it says. What is the feedback in your life telling you? Are you where you want to be in terms of your relationships, in terms of work, in terms of finances? The answer to these questions is feedback. Take the feedback you’re given seriously and move ahead.
Join me next week for affirmation #10.
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