Last Saturday afternoon, in preparation for my Sunday message, I re-watched some of Brene Brown’s work. I love her vulnerability, her authenticity. The title of Brown’s Daring Greatly book came from an inspirational Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
Brown went on to say that she used to pray that the critics would not be present when she spoke, but realized that that is a coward’s action. So she plans for them to be there. She mentally gives them a seat in her arena. She says she always includes her biggest critic, herself.
I thought it was a great idea. But an idea that would take courage and confidence.
Last Sunday, in my preparation, I invited the critics, including myself into the sanctuary. (Sanctuaries, unlike arena, are supposed to be places of safety.)
It was very freeing. I felt more spontaneous than ever.
I felt as if I were sharing important spiritual principles.
I got a lot of positive feedback.
And then, Monday morning I received an anonymous note that said, “I didn’t understand a word that was spoken.”
I was crushed! Even though, I had consciously invited the critics to be present for my message, I really didn’t expect them to show up.
What could I do? What I did was try to ignore it. (I do believe that anonymous notes are poison darts that the writer knows are poisonous!)
I attempted to become aware of who would have written it. (And I justified my choices by making the listener wrong!) Neither of these “solutions” would have moved me forward in consciousness.
Then finally, I received the gift. Of all the feedback I could have received, this was a very gentle one.
(Thank you, Divine Mind, for bringing my demonstration in a gentle way.)
So I needed to ask myself, what can I learn about myself regarding the feedback?
I am still discovering things. First, the universe always responds when I plant a seed in Divine Mind. Second, instead of feeling resistant and defensive, I could choose to watch the talk and see for myself how I could have communicated more clearly. (The truth is, I rarely watch myself because I am so self-critical. And I usually don’t stop with the content of the message but also include anything else I feel self-conscious about — my hair, my clothing, my waistline, my facial appearance, my movements, etc. So I finally made a decision to pray first and then to re-watch the video.
Again, I encountered resistance. (Maybe I didn’t really want to watch it!)
I was waiting at home for a delivery and decided that watching the service would be the best use of my time. First, I tried to get the service to play on my computer. It took a little time to find it. Then I could see it, but there wasn’t any sound. Next I tried my iPad. With it, I couldn’t even find our website. Finally, after I charged my phone for awhile, I played the whole service on the phone.
I saw a woman (me) who was having fun with her message. I did understand most words that I used but I could see how someone might not have been able to understand them. Yes, it could have been clearer. I could have told the listeners what I intended to say, then said it, then told them what I said. I did not do that. But it wasn’t terrible. Louise Hay gave the best advice about becoming a better speaker. She would gently say to herself, “Louise, that was pretty good for your first talk, and your next one will be even better!”
The ultimate learning comes from realizing that there will always be critics and that all I can do is the best I can do.
That is all any of us can do.