Honest Criticism

Inspiration MinistriesBy Inspiration Ministries2 Minutes

Jean Racine became one of the most influential writers of the 17th century. Born in Paris in 1639, he was orphaned when just a few years old. A relative brought him to a convent, where he gained a Christian perspective. He also benefitted from the expertise of a group of devout scholars, who founded a school there. Racine had the opportunity to study the classics of Latin and Greek literature with distinguished masters.

This proved to be a life-changing environment as he became a master communicator. His writing skills brought him to the attention of the royal court and led to the first performance of one of his plays in 1664. In particular, his plays had impact because of his skill at creating realistic characters and portraying tragedy and human struggle.

While experiencing great success with several plays, he experienced a failure with his play Phèdre in 1677. Worn out by responding criticism, he stopped writing entirely, only returning 12 later.

Dealing with criticism was particularly vexing to Racine. In the preface to one play, he wrote, “What can I do to satisfy my stern critics? It would be very easy to do so if I were willing to sacrifice common sense.” But he couldn’t do that. He once described how “the smallest critical censure … always caused me more vexation than all the pleasures given me by praise.”

How difficult it can be to handle criticism. For many, like Jean Racine, it can be debilitating and discouraging. Deep down, we all may prefer praise and applause. Yet, in the end, criticism may prove to be more valuable. If we allow God to speak to us.

The Bible tells us that we should not reject comments made by others, but ask God to speak to us. To listen to the advice we are given. To open to the correction and leading of His Spirit.