The Dangers of Defensiveness
By Jessica Grottke
We may have a defensive spirit due to pride, fear, insecurity, or a dysfunctional upbringing, but whatever the reason, it can really stifle a person relationally and spiritually. And it can have devastating effects on your ministry and on the team with which you serve. A defensive spirit can hurt you and your art.
* Defensiveness Alienates Us from Others
Defensiveness can lead to bitterness and resentment. It stifles communication. People who are always quick to defend themselves are not very approachable. When others feel as if they have to walk on eggshells around you, you end up alienated from others, and that can be very lonely. Sometimes we get defensive to avoid getting hurt. People reject someone who’s chronically defensive. The irony here is that the overly sensitive person eventually becomes insensitive to others because they’re so self-absorbed. What starts out as a defense mechanism against being hurt turns out to inflict an even greater hurt: loneliness and alienation.
* Defensiveness Keeps Us from the Truth
Honesty is a sign of integrity. The person who recognizes truth and speaks honestly is a person of high moral character. Being defensive, on the other hand, is a serious character flaw. It keeps you from the truth about yourself and the world around you. We choose defensiveness to protect ourselves from self-doubt. Yet the very thing we’re trying to prevent happens. People who put up walls to protect themselves from the truth encounter more self-doubt than those who face their weaknesses squarely and grow from them. Being deceived about your abilities is far worse than knowing and accepting your strengths and weaknesses.
* Defensiveness Keeps Us from Being All We Can Be
It stifles us artistically and creatively because listening to feedback, critique, or suggestions is one of the ways we improve. When we allow ourselves to be defensive, we stop growing as people and as artists. Sometimes we get defensive because we feel threatened. We think we have to protect ourselves and our art.
Because many artists are sensitive people, our egos bruise easily. Sometimes too easily. We’re good at picking up signals from people, things that others might not even notice. Because we’re going to pick up a lot of things like that, we need to be careful that we don’t pick up something that’s not really there.
Responding to Feedback
An artist can be extremely vulnerable. If you’re a creative person, you too are vulnerable. You pour your heart and soul into creating something, and you hold it protectively in your hands. Another reason we feel vulnerable is because we are constantly being evaluated. We evaluate ourselves, wondering how our audience liked what we did. As a result, whether we perform or create, we can often feel as if our work is always “out there” for people to evaluate.
* Greet Feedback as Your Friend.
Have a teachable spirit. Be open to critique. Realize that it can be God’s agent to bring growth into your life � spiritual growth as well as artistic growth. Someone who is honest with us truly loves us. Everybody knows there’s a problem except the person with the problem. Don’t we love others enough to tell them that they are only hurting themselves with their constant defensiveness? There is often some degree of genuine love and concern behind most constructive criticism. That’s why feedback can be greeted as a friend, not an enemy.
* Respond with Grace
It can be difficult to know how to respond to suggestions or criticism with grace instead of anger.
*Be quick to listen.
Instead of being quick to justify yourself, listen first.
Listen without being threatened.
*Be slow to speak.
Don’t be so quick to defend yourself.
Our first response should be to ask ourselves, is any of this true?
*Be slow to become angry.
Take a step back Cool down.
Sometimes we get angry and defensive and take things in ways they were never intended to be taken.
If you’re hurt by someone, it’s your responsibility to confront him or her about it.
* Be Discerning
You should listen to feedback, but you don’t have to take everything you hear as being absolute truth. Not all feedback is given with sensitivity, but we can still learn from it. This is important because you’re always going to run into the tactless individual who speaks without thinking. Not all feedback is given with good intentions, but you can take what is helpful and leave the rest.
* Learn How to Fail Graciously
We need to own up to our mistakes, not run away from them or pass responsibility on to someone else. No one’s expecting perfection, so we don’t need to defend ourselves every time we fail. When we mess up, Let’s swallow our pride, admit it, learn from it, and move on. Just because we fail doesn’t mean we’re failures.
Forgiving Those Who Have Hurt You
Artists who are chronically defensive are usually harboring bitterness and resentment toward people in their past who have said disparaging things about them and their work. Harboring bitterness and resentment can do more damage to you than negative words over did. You can’t control what people are going to say about your work, but you can control how you’re going to respond. Scripture says that no matter who it is, no matter what that person said, if we have anything against anyone, we need to forgive that person just as God has forgiven us. Forgiving the person who hurt you can set you free from those negative words that hold you back as an artist.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”