The Art of Encouraging Feedback: Constructive Criticism

But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, giving thanks to his God.<br />


“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)


You know, one of the most rewarding yet challenging roles I’ve had is being a dad. Working with my kids on various projects, from school assignments to building treehouses, to keeping my mouth shut on the sidelines of the lacrosse fields, has taught me a lot about the art of giving and receiving feedback.

Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” This verse highlights the importance of constructive criticism in helping each other grow and improve. When done right, feedback can be a powerful tool for personal and collective development.

If you follow me on social media you probably know that my youngest plays lacrosse and so did my oldest for a while. I’m not a HUGE sports fan. In fact there are only a few sports that I actually enjoy watching, lacrosse and hockey are about it. 

I digress. 

As a parent sometimes it’s hard not to “coach” from the sidelines. But as I have learned from my many years on the sidelines is that if I am over there yelling at my kids what to do they are really learning anything because they don’t get the opportunity to make split-moment decisions on the field because they are always listing for me to tell them what to do. 

Then after the game, we take time to talk to them to see where they think they can improve and let them have glory on the moments where they really shone. Highlighting the moments where they did a GREAT job then casually bringing up where they might make some minor tweaks to become an even better player. 

A great example of this was recently with my youngest (Jacob 12 years old) in this last season I noticed that when he played against kids his own age it was almost as though he was holding back and not playing all in. but when he played against the older kids (up to 14 years old) he was wicked good and way more aggressive, in a good way. 

He has this one move he calls the can opener. It where he uses his stick to go between the other player and their stick. Then he leverages his stick to pry their stick out of their hands. Almost always causes them to drop the ball. Then he swoops in an picks it up. (if you ever see Jacob ask him about the “can opener” be sure to mention lacrosse or he might be lost, lol”

Anyways…… after one game where he played against the older kids I asked him, “Dude is there a reason that you aren’t using that move on the kids your age?” his answer was shocking, “Dad, I feel like it might hurt those little guys!” how sweet he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Wait, these kids are not “littler” than he is they are HIS AGE!!!!! What the heck??!?!?!?!?!?!

I casually explained that he can play all in with the kids his age too. It’s their choice to be on the field, and if they chose to be there, then they can handle any “clean” moves that he can deliver. After that small conversation, he stipped up his game with the kids that were his age because he understood better. 

It’s not about pointing out flaws or tearing someone down; it’s about offering guidance and support to help them improve. When we approach feedback with empathy and kindness, we can help others grow without diminishing their confidence.

In our relationships—whether with family, friends, or colleagues—how we give feedback matters. Constructive criticism should be a two-way street where everyone feels heard, respected, and motivated to improve. It’s about sharpening each other, just like iron sharpens iron.

So, next time you’re in a position to give feedback, remember to approach it with a heart of encouragement. Start with the positives, offer suggestions with kindness, and work together towards improvement. Let’s build each other up and create an environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to grow.


Take Action Items 


  • Start with Positives: When giving feedback, begin by acknowledging what the person has done well. This sets a positive tone and shows that you appreciate their efforts.


  • Be Specific: Provide clear, specific examples of what can be improved and why. Vague feedback can be confusing and unhelpful.


  • Suggest Solutions: Instead of just pointing out problems, offer constructive suggestions for improvement. Collaborate on finding solutions together.


  • Use “I” Statements: Frame your feedback in terms of your own observations and feelings. For example, say, “I noticed that…” instead of “You always…”.


  • Practice Active Listening: When receiving feedback, listen attentively without interrupting. Ask clarifying questions if needed and show that you value the other person’s perspective.


  • Encourage Open Dialogue: Foster an environment where feedback is seen as an opportunity for growth, not as criticism. Encourage open and honest communication.


  • Reflect on Feedback: Take time to reflect on the feedback you receive. Consider how it can help you improve and make a plan to implement the suggestions.


  • Follow Up: After giving or receiving feedback, check in to see how the changes are going. This shows ongoing support and commitment to improvement.


  • Seek Feedback Regularly: Make it a habit to seek out feedback from others. This demonstrates a willingness to grow and improve.


  • Celebrate Progress: Acknowledge and celebrate improvements, no matter how small. Recognizing progress can motivate continued growth and effort.


Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the wisdom of Your Word and the guidance it provides in every aspect of our lives. Today, we come before You, seeking Your help in mastering the art of giving and receiving feedback with grace and love.

Lord, Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” We ask for Your guidance in using our words to sharpen and uplift those around us. Teach us to approach feedback not as a means to criticize or tear down, but as an opportunity to build up and support one another.

Father, help us to speak with empathy and kindness, especially when giving constructive criticism. Let our words be filled with encouragement and positivity, starting with the strengths and achievements of others before gently offering suggestions for improvement. May we always strive to help others grow without diminishing their confidence.

We pray for the wisdom to listen actively and to value the perspectives of those we interact with, whether in our families, workplaces, or communities. Grant us the humility to accept feedback graciously and the discernment to apply it in ways that lead to personal and collective growth.

Lord, we lift up the relationships in our lives where feedback is essential. Help us to foster an environment where open and honest communication thrives, where everyone feels heard, respected, and motivated to improve. Let us be mindful of the impact our words can have, choosing to be sources of encouragement and inspiration.

Thank You for the lessons You teach us through our daily experiences, like the moments I share with my kids on the lacrosse field. These interactions remind us of the power of gentle guidance and the importance of allowing others to learn and grow. Help us to continue nurturing these valuable relationships with patience and love.

We ask for Your forgiveness for the times we’ve been harsh or unkind in our criticism. Help us to learn from these moments and to grow in our ability to communicate constructively. May our efforts to give and receive feedback reflect Your love and bring glory to Your name.

In Jesus’ name, we pray.



Dan Greer