Who are you striving to please?

Created by YouVersion @ Roger Coles
Created by YouVersion @ Roger Coles

“Who do I listen to when it comes to doing a good job?”  That thought is what got me into this to begin with.  That’s one of the countless thoughts I have when thinking of feedback and/or evaluations.  Who do you listen to when it comes to criticism?

My former teaching career was dominated by feedback and evaluations…from day one.  Teachers were told that it was the only way to improve. We were told that it’s “objective” and not personal, which is why so much data (i.e. test scores) had to be considered.   I bought into that thinking, and believe I did improve as the years and feedback went on.  Then “it” happened.  I got a superior who couldn’t be objective at all, combined with an evaluation system that is ridiculously outrageous when followed to the T (ask any Tennessee teacher).  I wrote about the experience here, if you’re unfamiliar with it.     

Although numerous colleagues, parents and former students said I was a wonderful teacher, the one who had the power said I wasn’t.  

Now, though, God has blessed me with a new career in journalism.  I enjoy it.  I truly do. I want to do a good job.  No, I want to do a great job. Here’s the problem:  who’s going to tell me that?  It’s a small-town newspaper owned by a businessman, not a career newspaper publisher.  As my dad would fondly say, I’m “chief cook and bottle washer”, so technically I have no supervisor over me.  

I have many friends and people off the street tell me I’m doing a great job, which I appreciate and don’t take for granted.  I have people that I’ve written about tell me that they enjoyed reading the article, which I appreciate as well.  But, I have also had a few disgruntled phone calls in which I was blasted for not reporting the facts.  One caller even said, “You just like to ruin people’s lives at 50 cents a pop!”  Recently I received an email accusing the paper of being more like the National Enquirer than a newspaper and having an “agenda”.  

Photo by me...created with YouVersion
Photo by me…created with YouVersion

Which brings me back to my original question:  Who do I listen to when it comes to doing a good job?  Since I’m only familiar with the teaching profession and its’ evaluations, I reached out to friends in a variety of jobs:  a banker, a hairstylist, an associate at a large retailer, a dental hygienist and a photographer.  

The banker and associate received formal evaluations, both annually.  They seemed to welcome the appraisal as a way to go over past performance.

One said, “I feel it was helpful because it made you feel good about job performance but it also gave room for improvement each time.”

The other said, “I really enjoy my review because it allows me to figure   out exactly where I sit with them. Most people dread it, but I look forward to it!”

The hairstylist, who worked at a locally-owned salon, didn’t receive any formal evaluation.  She mentioned the state inspector would come and evaluate the business on cleanliness, following procedures, etc, but not an evaluation of their talent. She said, “I never did [get evaluated] actually. I mean, I guess I thought if [customers] kept coming back, then I did a good job?”  

The dental hygienist said that it varies from office to office (she’s worked in several), ranging from very formal to very informal. “Usually the bigger offices use the more formal technique,” she said, adding, “Sometimes they just meet you in the hall and brag on what a great job you’re doing!”

So some workers listened to their superiors, others to their customers.  Of course, this is in no way scientific and is not intended to be.  If I listen to either of those camps too long though, I may be in for a world of hurt.  

Several weeks ago, while reading, Jesus’ words jumped out at me, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes form the only God?” (John 5:44)

God knows me (and you) in such a deep personal way that He wants to remind me to seek Him and His approval…not anyone else’s.  I can’t count the number of times I have had to learn this lesson.  It seems I have a learning disability when it comes to this subject.  It just won’t get into my long-term memory!

Others must need it too, because it’s mentioned different ways in the Bible.  “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

By the same token, Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) saysBut seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” I do strive to be a servant of Christ and I am again committed to look to God for my approval in my work and in my life.

In the future, when I wonder if I’m doing a good job or not, I will try to recall Jesus’ words:

“I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God? John 5:44  (MSG)

Good advice for us all, don’t you think?

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