It was evaluation time, again.  That wonderful time of year when I get to see exactly what my students think of me, no holds barred.  24 feedback surveys from last semester’s class.  Fabulous results.  Great scores.  With the exception of 2 forms with hastily scrawled comments.

The instructor has an annoying habit of clicking her teeth at the beginning of her sentences when she talks.  Instructor annoys me and ALL the class when she clicks her teeth.  I find it hard to concentrate.

You HAVE GOT to be kidding me, the voice in my head responded.   I have been teaching college courses for over three years with glowing reports.  Nobody has ever mentioned this to me before.  My stomach dropped, my face turned red, and I immediately went into defense mode.

I do not click my teeth.  I would notice if I did something that annoying.  I have won presentation awards and heard myself on tv and radio.   There is no chance I do that.  It must have been the students I caught cheating trying to get back at me.    And on and on and on.

After about 30 minutes of stewing and brewing (yes, I admit that 2 little comments worked me into a tizzy – I’m obsessive like that), I calmed down and started thinking logically again.  I had a class coming in 20 minutes, so I decided to put myself to the test.  I was on hyper-alert for any teeth clicking. Smirk.

To make a long story short, when I go into “teacher mode,” I do indeed have this tendency to start my sentences with a click like I’m ticking off a checklist.  I don’t do it in regular conversation or even when I give a presentation, but there it was like a slap in the face. 

I made it through that class without one single “click” and made a promise to myself that I will never annoy my students that way, again.  After class I mentioned the comments to Justin who said, “Oh yeah, you do that on the phone sometimes, too.”  I gave him my best if-looks-could-kill glare.  Who knew?

Since that dreaded incident, I’ve been thinking about why those comments hurt so badly.  Why wasn’t I open to hearing feedback that in the end would make me more effective at my job?  I’m convinced it comes down to ego.  I spend so much time trying to inflate my sense of worth that any critique really does hurt.  Oh, but how willing I am to point out all the things that others do wrong!  Perhaps not verbally, but my head constantly rings with criticism. It’s not a nice place to be. 

Matthew 7:5 reminds us, you hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  If I’m honest with myself, that is exactly what I am.  A hypocrite.  Thankfully, I am still loved by many, hypocrisy, teeth-clicking and all!

So, here’s the thing.  It can be difficult to know constructive criticism from hurtful criticism.  One comes from genuine love and care.  The other comes from dark places of jealousy, hatred, and fear.  The real question we must ask ourselves is this: Will this advice or criticism make us more of who we are meant to be?  Is there an element of truth, no matter how hard to swallow, that could help us move forward on the path God has given?  If the answer is yes, think about it.  Pray about it.  Give it a test drive.  If the answer is no, let it go and move on.

Some of the best advice I received while working in the corporate world was to avoid being a sponge with hurtful criticism.  Be a duck instead and let it roll right of your back!  If we would all be a bit more open to constructive feedback and more dismissive to hurtful feedback, the word would be better place.

So…another lesson learned in this adventure called life: Sometimes the truth hurts, but anything can be overcome in the spirit of love.  Any annoying habits that you want to share with the world?