Criticism That Helps Us Grow

Yael Eckstein  |  June 24, 2022

Yael Eckstein with her father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold
    is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.
— Proverbs 25:12

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, was the importance of accepting criticism. Even though he was the founder and leader of a very successful organization, he was always willing to hear the criticism of those around him. He used to say that accepting criticism is a sign of strength, not weakness. When we accept thoughtful and honest criticism, we grow and improve.

When he passed away and I unexpectedly stepped into the leadership of The Fellowship, I was so scared of messing up. I remember the first time a senior member of the staff pulled me aside to tell me something they thought I had gotten wrong. My first instinct was to get defensive. I feared appearing weak if I admitted a mistake.

But then I remembered my father. I took a deep breath and listened carefully and I thank God I did. So much of my own growth has come from listening carefully to the criticism from people who I trust and who I know want only the best.

Criticism That Helps Us Grow

Our verses from Proverbs today teach us the value of accepting criticism: “Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.”

I love that the verse compares the rebuke to an earring of gold. Earrings make people notice our ears. They decorate our ears, the tools we use to listen. The Bible is telling us that our willingness to listen carefully to rebuke and criticism that comes from wise people brings honor to our ears.

In other words, we show that we are using the ears that God gave us for their highest purpose. Because if we aren’t willing to listen to constructive and wise rebuke, why bother having ears at all?

God gave us ears so that we’ll listen and learn. It is well-intentioned criticism that helps us grow stronger and wiser. It gets rid of our impurities and refines us like “fine gold.

Your Turn:

Have you ever grown from constructive rebuke? Be grateful for the wise people in your life who care.

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