Sunday, July 31, 2011

Investing in People....For the Long Haul

I don’t know how many times I have heard financial advisors say: you are investing for the long haul! The implication being that it is important to ride out the ups and downs of the various financial markets I fully understand that concept and I would think that it is still a valid way of looking at things in a time of rapidly changing economics. But of more importantly I continue to find that such a principle applies to human relationships.

Not long ago I had a discussion with a 12 year old girl regarding some family concerns that are taking place in her life right now. She is fortunate. Her mom and dad are both good people. I realize that is not something for anyone to take for granted! We sat down one afternoon and had a good heart to heart discussion about challenges her family is facing. Bear in mind I am not a youth minister. And I am at least 30 years beyond being any hope of being cool. And to top it off I have never been a father to girls. But despite all of those strikes against me, the interchange went well.

Today I felt someone tap me on arm in the foyer after church services. I turned around and there was my 12 year old friend. I hugged her like she was my own child. The closer I get to 50 the softer I am getting. That precious little girl melted my heart this morning. She told me things in confidence several weeks ago that she knows I will never share with another soul.

It occurred to me a few hours later that I will probably get a phone call in 10 or 12 years. She will be a grown woman by that point and she will be calling on me to do a wedding ceremony. That scenario has been repeated more than once in the course of my 24 year career in ministry.

I was reminded this morning that I am investing in people for the long haul. There are rich benefits to such a commitment. Of course I fully realize that human relationships are far more unpredictable and complex than financial markets. But I am willing to ride that roller coaster. There are no financial benefits to such a commitment, but the personal rewards are priceless. I think I will continue to invest in people and learn to live with the ups and downs of real life.

Times are a Changing!

Times they are a changing around the Knox household. My youngest son informed me today that his older brother would not be home for Thanksgiving this year. Randall is spending the fall semester at the Los Angeles Film Institute, so he will be eating his turkey in California when November rolls around. That will mark the first time since we started our family that we have not all been together for a major holiday. I am not sure I am ready for that transition, but times are a changing.

My middle son, Daniel, is counseling at Royal Family Kids Camp this week.  The mission of Royal Family Kids camp is to create positive memories for abused and neglected children ages 7-11, in a one-week camp experience. Daniel will be responsible for 2 eight year old boys for an entire week at camp. My job at Royal Family this week is to be a relief counselor. I will arrive at 7:00 and stay a couple of hours, so the counselors can get a break. As it turns out, I will be relieving Daniel and his counseling partner this week. That too is a first for me. But let me be reminded times are a changing.

This summer Mitchell’s brothers have taken turns hauling him around. But that will not be the case next summer. He will at least be eligible to have a driver’s license next summer. That is sort of scary, but I might as well be prepared. Times they are a changing.

As new chapters open in the lives of my children, I find that my role does not cease. It simply changes. My intent is to serve my kids and serve them well. But gone is the day when Randall prided himself in not taking a shower for a week at camp. The day has long since past when Daniel woke me up at the crack of dawn to play hot-wheels cars with him. Mitchell will no longer allow his brothers to lock him in the closet when parents are absent from the house, because times are a changing.

I am excited about camp this week. Watching one of my boys serve two kids who have most likely been removed from their home because of abuse is a good thing. I am confident he will do better than me in such a context. And I must realize that someday we will gather in Randall’s home for Thanksgiving. And that will be exciting too. Changing times are not so bad after all!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Before You Judge Someone: Consider the Missing Pieces

During the winter months we will often start a thousand piece puzzle on a card table in our living room. When Jan’s parents visit, her dad especially enjoys the challenge of working on it. When a puzzle like that is being assembled, you can’t really tell what exactly it is going to depict until a lot of the pieces are in place. And that takes time…

Our lives are like a multiple piece puzzle. There are numerous pieces of our existence that assemble the picture of our life as it looks today. Each piece represents experiences we have had, people we have known, the family we were raised in, jobs we have had and the like. There are also pieces that are symbolic of tragedy, loss and times of despair.

When we get reacquainted with someone after a long period of time, we only know the part of the puzzle of their life that we experienced with them. A lot of pieces have been added during the intervening period. Consequently the puzzle of their life really looks different. In that regard, I have learned something very important in recent months.

Our friends will place the missing pieces of their life puzzle out there for us to observe, if we are willing to listen. Little by little they will reveal their life story to us. Each personal narrative disclosed places another missing piece where it belongs in the puzzle.

Unfortunately most of us tend to jump to conclusions about other people long before the picture has been assembled. The truth is: we don’t even know what the entire picture looks like! We observe a few pieces and automatically assume what that person is really like.

I have been reminded recently to be patient enough to allow all of the puzzle pieces to fall into place. I must listen very carefully and patiently to my friends. They will continue to place the pieces of their lives where they belong, as they share their story. With each placement I learn new things about them. Relationships deepen if we are patient enough to allow the puzzle of people’s lives to come together. And in most cases there are well over 1,000 pieces!  

The truth is:  we create a safe environment for our friends when we acknowledge that the puzzle of their life has many pieces! There is a learning curve here.  Before you judge someone consider the missing pieces.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Safety for the Abused And The Walking Wounded Too...

Glenn Newberry is the executive director for Foster’s Home for Children in Stephenville, TX. Tonight I heard Glenn speak on the subject of safety. But it was not the kind of safety lecture that I have heard police officers deliver numerous times. In his presentation, he described a comprehensive program that Foster’s Home is using that focuses on emotional safety. Bear mind that Foster’s serves over 50 children in residential care that have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.

Glenn made a statement tonight that immediately caught my attention. He said: “Healing won’t occur until a child feels safe.” “Our goal is to build an environment of safety.” Of course there is a lot involved in fulfilling such an objective. I have worked enough with traumatized children over the years to know that they are on the right track.

As I listened this evening, my mind start bouncing like it always does. (Jan tells me the wires in my head are not connecting to the correct colors.) As I listened, my mind transitioned from abused children to adults that I interact with everyday.

All of my friends could be aptly described as the walking wounded. My peers are rapidly approaching age 50. Some of them are already there! We have all lived enough to be damaged in significant ways. We lived long enough to bury parents, experience heartache with our children, and in some cases go through the pain of divorce. The list could go and on…

I realized tonight that my friends won’t heal until they feel safe. Consequently my responsibility to them is to build an environment of safety in the context of our relationship. Glenn shared a few things they are doing at the children’s home that I find to be relevant in all relationships where safety is a priority. I think I will write another piece listing those ideas tomorrow. But in the meantime I am thinking about the objective of safety for my friends. How can I create a safe environment for my friends? It is a weighty question. More tomorrow…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wisonsin Bound: Part II The Wonder Years at Wind Point Elementary

We were in the 5th grade. To be more specific we were in Mrs. Shepherd’s class in the 5th grade. Our teacher, Mrs. Shepherd, was a direct descendant of Attila the Hun. She ran her classroom like a military boot camp. On the top left-hand corner of the chalkboard she posted her solitary rule of conduct for the school year. It read as follows: Love one another. That’s all…According to Mrs. Shepherd that was the only written law that all 5th graders under her rule would be required to follow. I found it to be sort of amusing until one fateful day on the playground when I infringed upon her single classroom decree.

I got in a fist fight with my friend Steve. Now I was no match for Steve, who had 4 older brothers that were championship wrestlers and football players. One of his brothers went on to become a hall of fame wrestler in the State of Wisconsin. What I was thinking? I was in the 5th grade and that of course explains it all. Male egos at that age are just starting to really get out of check.

Mrs. Shepherd stomped out on the playground (like only she could do) and broke up the fight. I think Mrs. Shepherd could have broken up a bar brawl, if she had been so inclined. She made Steve and I face each other in front of all of our classmates. And then she dropped the bomb… “Steve, you tell John that you love him.” “John, you tell Steve that you love him.” I was thinking that I would rather be shipped off to Siberia than tell him that I loved him. But remember who Mrs. Shepherd’s ancestor was…None other than Attila himself. She won. We lost. We expressed our love for each other in clear terms, so could hear us.

I only recall two or three terribly embarrassing moments during the wonder years at Wind Point Elementary. That incident of course would be one of them. The good memories with Steve far outweigh the negative ones. We rode our bikes all over the place, played pool at my house, and generally created mischief. The wonder years for the most part were just that...

Friday night there will be a mini-reunion in the city where I went to elementary school ,and one year of junior high. I will see people I knew at Wind Point Elementary for the first time in over 36 years. I mentioned to a friend last week that I was a little nervous about this whole thing. 36 years is a long time. But it occurred to me today that perhaps we should simply practice Mrs. Shepherd’s sole rule for her classroom: Love one another. And I don’t mean that in a syrupy sort of way. I mean it the way she actually intended it to be interpreted, I think. We should come to such a reunion with the resolve to care about each other in a respectful, kind, and even compassionate sort of manner.

I don’t anticipate anyone having to face off and tell each other that they love each other at the reunion Friday night. But I have a strong hunch that I will observe pockets of people expressing mutual concern and respect for each other. We no longer have to be forced to express our love to each other. We are well beyond the 5th grade now. And I think we have figured out that valuing each other is pretty important.

Oh and by the way…Steve will be there Friday night. He is dealing with a very serious illness right now. I have a few things I need to tell him. But I am really glad that Mrs. Shepherd won’t be there looking over my shoulder.  She made the wonder years not so wonderful that fateful day in 5th grade.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Your Unique Presence is Needed.....Right Now!!

Corporal Darrell Campbell with the Snyder, Texas Police Department was shot in the head in a line of duty incident early Tuesday morning. .He has been hospitalized in Lubbock’s University Medical Center since the shooting occurred. I was not at all surprised to read in media releases that patrol officers with the Lubbock Police Department are staying with Campbell and members of his family in the Intensive Care Unit area around the clock. They are there to provide security and support for the Campbell family 24/7.

I have several reactions to their prompt and consistent response. In 21 years of volunteering as a law enforcement chaplain, I have seen such actions over and over again. Police officers are extremely loyal to each other. They are also trained to respond to a crisis in very definite, tangible ways.

Their actions this week at the hospital are also a reflection of their identity. They are protectors. That is who they are. Consequently that is what they have to offer a family facing the reality of a loved one who critically injured.

What about the rest of us? What do those of us that do not go to work with guns on our belt have to offer? Interestingly enough the very day of the shooting I read an essay from Henri Nouwen that addresses this need. He puts us on the right track with the following ideas:

Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present for others. Different people have different ways of being present. You have to know and claim your way. That is why discernment is so important.

Allow me to offer a not so subtle reminder. You are a unique presence in your community. You can be present for others in ways that no one else is suited to do. This week some of my dearest friends in the world are recovering at home from a serious car crash after being hospitalized out of state. Several of their friends are “running interference” at their home, so they can get some needed rest. Their loyal supporters are accepting casseroles, greeting well meaning visitors, and generally keeping the house going. They are being present for someone in need.

My encouragement to all of us is: Know and claim and our way! The needs abound. Your unique presence in the community is the way God wants you to be present for others. Where will that lead you tomorrow? Your unique presence is needed right now!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Story of Abandoned Children

What are you whining about today? Are you put out with your spouse or your children? Are you frustrated with your parents? Let’s see…they are suffocating you with their attentiveness. Or maybe they are elderly. Taking care of elderly parents has the potential to be a laborious task. It is all too tempting to grumble about it. What about members of your extended family? They too are commonly targeted for nitpicking.

Can I make a suggestion? Stop in your tracks right now… Stop the complaining.  Read this account from Gil Sanchez, who directs Casa De Esperanza. Casa as it is commonly called is a children’s home located in Northern Mexico not far Chihuahua City. In Gil’s most recent report regarding the service they are providing to children, he shared this story:

A passerby noticed Nena and Manuel sitting on a busy street corner in Cuauhtémoc. After noticing that the children were still sitting on the same busy street corner several hours later, she called the police. The police brought the children to Casa and after conducting an investigation determined that they had been abandoned where they sat. The parent/s are unknown and because we have no birth certificate we are uncertain of their age. We estimate that Nena is two and Manuel is three years old.

I have made several trips to Casa to conduct medical and dental clinics over the years. I know firsthand what an exceptional job that Gil and his coworkers do to serve children like Nena and Manuel. After nearly 14 years of coordinating clinics in various Mexican cities, my heart still breaks when I read stories like this one. Most importantly I realize that I have nothing to whine about.

My parents were imperfect human beings. Imagine that! They did not live their lives flawlessly. As a parent, I have attempted to do a few things differently than they did. But I must say I was never abandoned. (I am sure there were days my mother wished that I would take a hike.) I was never mistreated. I was certainly not left on a street corner. Few of us have such an experience lurking in our past.

Gil’s story motivated me to figure out a way to serve the kids at Casa during a difficult time in Mexico’s history. And it also prompted me to think twice before whining about any aspect of my family life. Oh by the way...who abandons their children at a busy intersection in a city?  I suppose someone who was whining about being a parent...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Once Upon a Time There Was No Facebook...

Once upon a time…I remember telling my boys bedtime stories (that I made up) that began in such a manner. Once upon a time is a phrase that just has an innocent ring to it. When we hear that expression, we anticipate a journey into the fantasy of story land. But such a saying can also have a serious connotation.

Once upon a time (in real life) the vast majority of the important relationships in my life were carried on with people that I saw face to face on a fairly regular basis. As a rule, I knew what was going in their life. I interacted with them in person. I observed firsthand what they were experiencing. I knew what was going in their life, because we were together a lot.

When I was in high school, I played tennis with a friend the day after his father was arrested. I helped another friend care for his elderly grandparents when his parents were gone for the weekend. I remember going to the hospital when I was in college to see a friend right after she experienced the loss of a baby. As a 19 year old, I didn’t feel real comfortable doing that, but I was there.

Those events took place once upon a time…I am living a very different reality today. I now have friends who live all over the world. We rely on facebook, email, and texting. One of these days I may even enter the world of skype.  I work really hard at keeping up with old friends and new ones alike. Technology has opened doors I never dreamed would even be cracked. Childhood friendships have been renewed. New relationships have been forged as well.

In this new reality, I don’t see these individuals face to face with much frequency. An annual reunion or trip of some kind is the only opportunity to be in each other’s presence. Major life events can take place on their end and mine as well. We share some of those things, but perhaps we choose not to tell all. So much can happen in a short period of time. It is nearly impossible to be as aware of what is going with each other as we were once upon a time…

I am not complaining. Without technology my network of relationships would be far more limited. But I am continuing to learn how to help those friendships to grow and flourish without the privilege of consistent personal interaction. Here are a few things I am considering. This is NOT the final word. These are just things I am considering. If long distance friendships are to deepen, then I must…

Ask open questions. Example: How are things going with your job?

Be alert. A lot of people drop hints via facebook or in passing comments regarding what is going on in their life. Pay attention and follow up.

Be consistent. Check on your friends on a regular basis. Technology allows us to do that effectively.

Be interested. I try (key word is try) to communicate via email, facebook, or texting that I am interested in what is going on in the lives of friends.

• Schedule phone calls: It is a good practice to say: It sounds like we need to have a phone conversation.

Once upon a time I saw my close friends nearly everyday. But now I depend on an inbox or a beep  on my phone. It is really not so bad, but it takes some creativity and commitment! Once upon a time there was no facebook….But I am thankful today that we have such resources.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Peacemakers

Today I am attending a luncheon that is being held in honor of the Granbury Police Department investigators, The Texas Rangers, and members of the District Attorney’s office in Hood County. They are being honored for their dedicated service in investigating and ultimately prosecuting the murders of Shawna Farris and Robyn Richter. Carrying out justice in this case took nearly three years. To say that everyone involved was tenacious is an understatement.
I am privileged to serve with all of these men and women everyday. I have always had great respect for those on the law enforcement side as well as those that are responsible for prosecuting. They are fine people.
This case was special. There are many details I cannot divulge, but I can say that the families of these victims have touched my life over the past three years.  I assisted with the notifications the day of the crime and also officiated at a memorial service for Robyn. When we get ready to give thanks for the meal today, I will share this blessing that I wrote to give all of us some perspective regarding those that protect and serve.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Blessed are those that enter dark places, where the worst of human motives and actions have been displayed.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Blessed are those who are tireless in their efforts to discover what really happened, when another human being has been robbed of their very life.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Blessed are those who are tenacious in dealing with those who lie and deceive, and avoid the consequences of their choices.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Blessed are those that are patient as well as demanding. If justice is to be done, every t must be crossed and every i must be dotted.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Blessed are those that sacrifice their personal time week after week, so that they will be prepared to speak openly on behalf of those who are no longer on this earth to speak on their own behalf.

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Blessed are those that bring peace to the hearts of those whose lives have been changed forever by darkness. Blessed are those who will continue to enter dark places, because they are called to protect and serve.

Blessed are those that protect and serve, for they are the peacemakers.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Confidentiality Means...Jaw Flappers Not Allowed!

Occasionally that motor mouth of mine can utter something that is truly profound. This morning marked one of those rare moments. As I was telling Jan about a longtime friend who is experiencing a personal crisis I made this observation: People in crisis don’t need jaw flappers. Translated from John lingo it means that individuals who are struggling don’t need friends who break confidences. How many of us have asked a friend not to repeat what we have shared only to discover that it was communicated freely and extensively?

When it comes to confidential communication, we need to mean what we say. In other words, if I tell someone that I will not repeat what they have shared I must honor it. That means there are no exceptions. I don’t tell my spouse or my best friend or even the dog. Confidential means just that. The content of such interchanges will not be disclosed or even mentioned. Consider it classified information.

Another phrase that is sometimes used to refer to confidentiality is privileged communication. Consider the content of that expression. It suggests the idea of a limited audience. You are privileged to hear it. That makes you a privileged character. Such individuals don’t take their role lightly.

Trust is fortified when we train our mouths to remain in park. Several years ago I had an administrative assistant that worked for me who had a unique way of handling privileged communication. This particular lady is as blonde as blonde comes. But don’t think for a minute that she fits some kind of “dumb blonde” stereotype. She is very sharp and alert to the inclinations of human motives. When people would come into our office on a fishing expedition searching for information that in all likelihood should be kept private, she played the dumb blonde act. She acted like she was oblivious to all of the human drama that was staged before her everyday in the office. That was her way of warding off people searching for information that was not intended for their ears.

I don’t know what methods you will choose in order maintain the integrity of your privileged status. The dumb blonde act may not fit your persona. If you want to preserve trust in the important relationships in your life, you better formulate some kind of confidentiality plan and be prepared to implement it. People on fishing expeditions are lurking everywhere! Your demeanor should communicate non-verbally that jaw flappers are not allowed.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wisconsin Bound!

We played in the sandbox together. We formed the “Willow Club.” Girls were very reluctantly allowed full membership. The fact is girls even played football with us. I of course had a Bart Starr #15 jersey to wear on such occasions. We constructed elaborate forts adjacent to the shore of Lake Michigan. And as we grew up, we rode our bikes to Shoop Park with our golf bags on our shoulders. We played basketball at the Wind Point Elementary playground and walked to Rosemary’s Corner Store to purchase a pop and a candy bar.

That is a pretty accurate description of my formative years in elementary school. Well sort of…I am leaving out other events that don’t need to be mentioned even though the statute of limitations has run out. At least I hope that is the case! In June of 1975, my world was changed dramatically. My dad accepted a position with his company in faraway Texas. I left the comfort of my Southeastern Wisconsin home on my last day of class in the 7th grade. I didn’t think I would ever see my friends again.

But in less than three weeks I will join nearly 30 former classmates and others my age that I never met. A mini-reunion has been planned for July 22nd. Some still have young children at home. Others are already enjoying an empty nest. There certainly has been a lot of water under the bridge since 1975.

As I reflected on this upcoming event last week, I felt a little nervous. I am like any other adult. There are painful memories of my early years that I have left buried. Even the best archaeologist could not unearth them totally. I dug up just enough of the junk from the past to make me uneasy. I started getting cold feet about the whole thing. But those thoughts passed quickly.

I am confident that we need each other. I am anxious to renew old friendships and form new ones with people that I grew up with technically, but for various reasons we never met. I am looking forward to doing some story listening. I hope to have the opportunity to share a kind or encouraging word.

The power of shared roots is amazing to me. People that grew up together can be separated for decades, but once they are reunited there is a bond that is hard to describe. It is almost as if we are all part of the same novel, but we have simply not been included together in the middle chapters of the book. I am thankful that the novelist has chosen to write additional chapters including the characters that interacted in the plot when they were young.

A chapter will be written in a few weeks that will feature a good number of us. I predict that it will be a portion of the novel that will keep the reader up at night. It won’t be light reading by any stretch of the imagination. The life narratives that will be shared will be intriguing. There will be lots of laughter and reminiscing as well. Girls will even be allowed, but not so reluctantly this time. I think you can see why I am anxious to be Wisconsin bound.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Get Me out of Here! I am Never Coming Back!

I met a number of people during my years as an undergraduate student that grew up in rural West Texas communities. Some of those individuals were raised on farms and ranches in places where the closest town with a grocery store was over 60 miles away. I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of those individuals were completing their degrees in anticipation of never, ever returning to country life. Their mentality was: get me out of here! I am never coming back!  I would say most of them are living in the Dallas/Fort Worth or Austin area now.

Life on a West Texas farm is pretty isolated. As the natives say: you have a lot of windshield time. I am empathetic to my friends that have no desire to return to that life. My sweet wife is one of them. She grew up on a farm 18 miles from civilization and 80 miles from a city of any size. But there is a dimension of life in the country that large city dwellers have to work very hard to replicate.

Rural citizens take care of each other. When a farmer becomes ill during harvest, everyone pulls out of their field and cuts that person’s corn or strips his cotton. I have seen it happen. You witness a sea of combines or cotton strippers on one farm. No one returns to their own field until their sick neighbor’s crop is in. Dinner (served at noon) is brought to the field and the tailgates of pickups become the dining room table.

I have been removed from that way of life for so long that I have nearly forgotten what it is like. Funerals have become my sole reminder of rural hospitality. Today Jan attended a graveside service in a tiny West Texas ranching community that has not had a store or café for many years. But the good folks in tiny Truscott, Texas opened their community center for the family and friends of the lady being buried. They served up standard West Texas cuisine that includes deviled eggs, garden fresh melons, and homemade pies. As Jan described the scene, it brought back a flood of memories. And I was grateful for good and decent people, who really love their neighbors.

In large cities, I hear constant rhetoric about community. I desire “community.” I want to “live in community.” I fully understand that desire. There is not a thing wrong with it. I just find it intriguing that the thing we long for the most is something that comes naturally to people in parts of the country that we most definitely don’t want to live in! I doubt that any of the good folks in Truscott, Texas are talking about “living in community.” It just comes naturally to them.

As Jan described the hospitality of the wonderful people in Truscott today, I thought to myself: I hope we can replicate their love and concern for their neighbors in the areas where we live.  It is going to take creativity and commitment.  We tend live lives that are isolated in a different sort of way.  But in times of loss we really do need to experience community and not just talk about it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is Someone Criticizing You? Consider the Source!

Consider the source…I have heard that phrase before. When my blood pressure is elevated because of a major irritation, my friends urge me to consider the source. The implication is that we can dismiss critical comments or insensitive remarks from people that lack credibility in our eyes. Such a conclusion makes perfect sense to me. But maybe I am wrong?

I really had to admit this at all, but I honestly believe there is a grain of truth in the assessments of even the most irrational critics. I use their flawed character as a so called legitimate reason to dismiss the content of their complaints. In the process, I miss the grain of truth that is very much present. Is there is a lesson to be learned?

If I want to be emotionally mature, then I must be willing to go on a search and rescue mission for the grain of truth that is buried under the layers of bad attitudes and inappropriate behavior being displayed by the critic. Such a mission however is often hindered by my own huge ego.

Many years ago I was directing a church camp session when a very immature youth minister severely criticized some of the procedures I had in place at the camp. The young man was not well suited for the position he held. And he just had a bad attitude. Consequently I totally dismissed his critical comments that he verbalized, and put in writing to the camp board. At some point after that event, I realized that his analysis of my procedures was right on target. If I had been willing to listen, I could have learned something valuable.

I have been reminded recently of the importance of listening to my critics. More specifically I realize that I must be an equal opportunity listener. As much as I hate to admit it, my big ego forms a solid layer that impedes the mission of digging down to the grain of truth that no doubt exists.

Who is criticizing you? What are they saying? Can you detach the content from the source? That is actually pretty important, because it might help you to experience growth in area of life that needs attention. Consider the source? That is not bad advice per se, but perhaps there are other factors to take into consideration as well!