Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties


What if we accepted criticism and did something about it?


No-one likes being criticised or told off.

We don’t like being told we don’t measure up, meet the standards or that we have failed.

The problems in our society have roots in our individualisation of people. We are told we can do anything we want, if it feels right then do it, and that we are all valuable, special and have rights.

But what happens when you live by your feelings is that if you don’t feel like it then you don’t do it or don’t put in any effort to do it well. If we feel hurt then we think the person who has hurt our feelings must be in the wrong. We think it is what matters to us is more important than what happens for the good of others.

A local school has a motto “Non Sibi Sed Aliis” which means not for myself but for others.

When we are criticised, told off or disciplined so many people get cross, indignant and defensive. The cry of children “it wasn’t me, it wasn’t my fault” has become the mantra of adults in the workplace, in the home and in society at large.

Defending ourselves and being indignant takes up a lot of time and energy. It causes us stress and leads to complaining and gossiping. It takes up an awful lot of our time, preparing argument, reasons for why it isn’t our fault and counter criticisms that we can throw back at others. We become anxious, ill and tired. We don’t feel valued and can constantly feel under threat.

It happens in families, between friends, in the workplace, in government…and in our places of worship.

How many people have left marriages, families, jobs, churches because they feel that they can’t take the criticism, that they are being unfairly treated, overlooked, persecuted?

Our obsession with defending ourselves at all cost means it becomes difficult to sort out the real unfair criticism and bullying from the truth that our actions are not up to standard or helpful to others. (And I am not talking about that kind of criticism in this post) Or maybe we are the one who criticises and judges others? Maybe we are fed up of others being defensive and negative at whatever we say to them? Maybe we judge others so harshly that if they don’t measure up to our expectations we think they are useless, worthless and we don’t want to know them any more?

Non Sibi Sed Aliis – not for myself but for others….

Nurse Holding Elderly Patient's Hand

One simple but possibly impossible solution is for us to develop a culture where it is okay to fail…but not to give up.

This means thinking of the greater good and accepting criticism…and that it is okay. Even writing this makes me take in my breath. I have been subject to criticism a lot in my job and in my marriage, as a parent and as a part of my church…but actually…often this criticism has been correct. I don’t always meet the standards expected of me at work. I am sometimes unfair to my family and fail in my parenting techniques. I do say the wrong thing to people and let them down, I also judge others and criticise them with the same criticisms leveled at me…don’t you?

And still I HATE being criticised. I often think it is being unfair and that I have a good defense. But really, if I think about it, mostly the person telling me off loves or respects me and is just pointing something out that is harming them or myself and our relationship.

Non Sibi Sed Aliis – not for myself but for others….

There is a lot of unfairness in our world today. Some people are cruel, nasty and bullies and they must be stopped. However, not all that is said to us is cruel and nasty. We need to learn to discern what is being said to us and not be afraid of negative feedback. In reality THIS is what makes us better. Comments about my attitude to men made me a better wife and woman. Comments about my teaching made me a better teacher. Comments about the way I spoke to my children made me a better parent. Comments about my book has made me write a much better one. I hated every single negative comment, (in fact some threatened to lead me into deep depression) but learning to take a step back, lay aside the negative emotions and really think about what was being said – has helped me learn new ways of doing things and new ways of being a better person for the sake of others on the receiving end of my relationships. (By the way, there is still a long way to go…we are ALL works in progress!)

Non Sibi Sed Aliis – not for myself but for others….

photo from

photo from

As a Christian there is a very important foundation we have for all of this. Jesus offered us life not based on our performance and measuring up to any standards. He fulfilled perfection for us and then died and was raised to life so that we could be given forgiveness and perfection as a gift. He sees believers who have accepted this life as already perfect…we am able to feel secure in his grace (undeserved gift) and then grow into who he is making us to be. Often that does come through discipline – we need to have it pointed out to us where we’re going wrong so we can agree with him (repentance) and let him help us put it right. The book of James in the Bible is really helpful (you can find it online here… ) God disciplines us because he loves us.

I imagine a society that feels secure enough to take criticism and uses it to grow. This society would have community not individualism at it’s heart. I imagine leaders who are kind but truthful and support their workers to accept constructive criticism and learn from it and who model how to do this by being able to take, learn and grow from the criticisms given to them. I imagine less stress, people less defensive and humble enough to accept that they are not always right but that it is okay. I imagine a society where we fail, learn from it and don’t give up, blame others, attack others to take the focus off ourselves or run away. I imagine that divorce courts are quieter, families are stronger, children are better behaved, communities work together and going to work is more fulfilling. I imagine more courteous drivers even! I imagine a society where people are less stressed and smile at strangers, and maybe is a lot safer.

Difficult, yes…impossible, no. Here’s my prayer for you…

Dear Father,

May the persons reading this feel secure enough to understand that negative feedback can help us grow into better people. Thank you that we can know this security in your love for us and that knowing Jesus died for us can take away all the need we have to live up to others expectations for our innate value. Help us begin today to think before we react to criticism, find the truth in it and respond appropriately. If that means apologising and changing something we do, then let us have the grace to change and grow.

Thank you Lord


Comments on: "Non Sibi Sed Aliis – not for myself but for others…." (1)

  1. Amen indeed. I suspect I am one of those people with a tendency to perfectionism, hyper critical of others and myself, and not very good at taking criticism when it’s aimed at me, which is a dangerous and painful place to be when trying to be a writer! God is at work, even though I have a long way to go.
    Thanks for this insightful and sensitive piece – I’m quite sure that you’re right when you say that humility is key; which of us is brave enough to ask God to teach us humility?!
    Thank you.


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