...But you sure can't take it

I know its been a while... but let's move past that, shall we? OK . So, about a month ago my husband Jon lost his job. It was rather unexpected and its definitely been a month full of highs and lows for us individually and as a couple- maybe I'll post about that another day- but today I want to write about something semi-unrelated that I have been reminded of in this time. How have I been reminded of it?

Enter Chef Gordon Ramsay. 

Oof, thats scary...

Ok, thats better.

In this interim of free time together, Jon and I have had a few favorite TV indulgences; one of which is Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares". Its this reality show where in each episode, Gordon Ramsay is called upon by a failing restaurant to try and swoop in and save it in a week's time.

After watching about 900 episodes, I'm convinced of one thing. The difference between growing, successful restaurants and those that are tanking is whether or not the owners/managers/chefs can (friggin) take criticism well. Seriously. I think thats it.

 Every episode pretty much goes like this...

*Restaurant, desperate for renovation in food, service and atmosphere quality calls on Gordon Ramsay to come in and help turn them around.

*Ramsay comes in and gives brutally honest feedback. Restaurant owners and sometimes chefs decide they don't want his help anymore because they refuse to accept that his criticism is valid.

*Chef Ramsay walks away. If they don't want to take it he's not about to waste his precious british time.

* After all the hub-bub they chase after him, finally willing to accept feedback.

* Shit gets moving and they eventually succeed. 

Now, you'd think that at the very beginning when he, a prominent chef and restaurant owner, came in and tried to help,  they'd submit to his opinion because they're failing and he's a wildly successful millionaire. Nope. EVERY time. Its like they THOUGHT they wanted help until they realized change is painful to their ego and then they, in total foolishness, decide that Chef Ramsay doesn't know what he's talking about and that they don't need help. A lot of them say things like "I'd rather close the restaurant than take it from this a-hole". You're watching it thinking... seriously? REALLY, bro? You'd rather quit and close down your restaurant than take criticism from a famous chef trying to help your sorry patoot ?

Every time I watch it I'm sitting at home thinking "Gosh, if these people JUST listened and were hungry to get better instead of  fighting to protect their egos, this whole thing would go swimmingly". It all seems so dramatic and ridiculous as you're watching it, which it is. But lately, there's this very real sense welling up in me that I...do...the same...thing. I use the very same tactics in my relationships sometimes! My husband will give me a criticism and- when I'm weak- my insticts are as follows:

1) Push back. Well, that's just not true. Or fair. You're being unfair and hyper-critical. Allow me to explain how wrong you are with your unfair hyper-criticisms of my innocent self.

2) Making it about me in a dramatic hail-mary pass of a scene. Well,  I'm sorry I'm SUCH a BURDEN. I'm sorry I'm SO _____ ( fill in the blank.Example: If he said "negative", I turn it into "totally depressing for everyone in my life" etc.)

3) Embarrassed but somehow still proud, shut down instead of facing the music. I think "Ok.. I'm just gonna leave. I'm gonna quit. I'd rather leave and quit than go through this pile of crap argument any more." I'd rather close the restaurant, thanks.

So whatever it is in these people that pushes back and goes into denial so far that they hurt themselves and everyone around them is the same thing that makes me run in circles when I get painfully honest feedback from people I love. Well, mostly my husband... Because I somehow feel the freedom to treat him worse than anyone else ( so backwards I know).

I genuinely believe that one of the main differences between people who are healthy and growing and those that are not is the ability and DESIRE to hear criticism and instead of rejecting it, accept it, listen to it, and decide to change. Its willingness to fail. Willingness to have our imperfections revealed in hopes that we can change them and move on.

The reason we ought to take criticism is that we HAVE to in order to achieve our goals and be the people we want to be. In order to become a better worship leader I HAVE to be willing to hear what I'm bad at and not let it put out my fire but rather hear it and take a good honest look at how I can change. But the thing is, I have to want to be a good worship leader bad enough to take it. Otherwise I'll just quit, right? Because growing is hard work and hard work is painful and pain without purpose just sucks.

Well in marriage, the whole quitting thing really isn't an option. This has changed the way Jon and I fight dramatically. Refer back to the three bratty habits I embody. See how when you can't end the relationship, it changes the terms and consequences of these behaviors?

What that has meant is that I have two choices when I'm faced with criticism from Jon:

1) Surrender myself for the sake of my marriage. I can hear what he's saying and decide to do the hard work of letting my ego deflate a bit for the sake of becoming a better wife.

2) Surrender my marriage for the sake of myself.  Sure, I can choose to deny every accusation that comes my way and stubbornly reject criticism to protect my ego... but I'm going to lose him. I'm going to lose Jon and its the same the other way- he can hear me when I tell him he's doing something hurtful, or he can deny it and reject it and in turn,  lose me. Not all at once. Not divorce after one or two arguments... but that slow slipping away from the person you love because you can't trust each other anymore. Because you're not choosing each other anymore... Because in choosing yourself you're choosing against them and against your marriage.

I'm notoriously bad at taking criticism in many areas of my life. Its not because I think I'm awesome- but rather the opposite.  I don't have a natural basin of confidence within myself, and subsequently, I am sensitive to people's opinions because I'm sub-consciously trying to protect whatever shred of self-worth I have stored up. Its probably in my top ten least favorite things about myself and definitely is something I pray in 10 years won't be so real to me.

Enter Jesus... As Christians, we should be the BEST at taking criticism!! We should be MASTERS of taking criticism! Why?

1) One of the fundamental beliefs in Christian faith is that we NEED a savior because we are imperfect, and when left to our own devices we are destructive. So, it should come as NO surprise to us when we get feedback from people that we are, in fact, sinners. We need to be willing to regularly recognize our own sin so that when we are faced with it from those we care about, we can humbly admit to it! How much more attractive is it when you confront someone in truth regarding something they're doing and instead of pushing back and creating a huge conflict, they humbly accept it and even APPRECIATE the honesty?? Gosh. Its so impressive!

2) Also, and this is the big one, we proclaim to believe in a God who has this lavish, foolish, unconditional love for us and despite of our sin, chases after us like a father after His dear children. As Christians, we need to be eating up the love of God for us. We need to be gobbling up the feast of His daily affections for us. Because of the former truth, we all need correction, but what makes correction bearable and what makes it possible for us to take it without being destroyed? The safety of His relentless love for us.

Lord, help me to gobble up Your love for me every day so that when criticism comes, I can take it with grace and humility to become the woman you've called me to be.


Special thanks to the hot-heads on Kitchen Nightmares that remind me of myself.

- Carly Calmes, the First