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Criticism is almost never easy to accept. And most of us accept far less criticism than we should.

The easiest criticism to accept is impersonal objective 'teaching' in a subject that we are highly motivated to learn. And the hardest criticism to accept is in the area of morals. It's much easier to tell a medical student that he or she has confused carpals with tarsals than it is to tell a religious person that he/she is lazy or proud or selfish.

People talk about the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. But almost all criticism feels destructive when you're receiving it. And if we use the excuse that the criticism was destructive, we'll never learn anything. The truth is that it isn't the criticisor who determines whether criticism will be constructive so much as the criticisee!

Defences like "Only God knows my heart," and "Who are you to judge?" only deprive the people who use them of the growth they could experience if they listened honestly to what was being said.

Some of the most respected and powerful people in the world are those who have never stopped listening to criticism. Presidents and prime ministers are always surrounded by 'advisors'. Surgeons, generals, and business executives frequently turn to consultants to improve their skills. But in the field of ethics, there are few who can match such a desire to learn. Most would rather escape criticism altogether by retreating into self-righteousness.

It is easy to think that religion is a place where people go to grow spiritually. But usually the exact opposite is the case. Religion offers a refuge from moral growth, by providing formulae for self-righteousness. Each new denomination need only find a single truth (or perceived truth) that the others have not found, and there ceases to be any need to grow further.

Inside the 'temple' it is easy for pastors and their flocks to find exemption from outside criticism. But this betrays a lack of faith in any God bigger than the organisation. We can strain at gnats of difference that we perceive between ourselves and the opposition; or we can work on the mountain of growth still available as we seek to learn new lessons from God.

And if you choose to learn from God, you can be sure that he will use even your worst critics to teach you.

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