Yesterday I wrote what I believed to be a measured, well-considered book review. Several folks felt it was snarky or mean or both, and this isn’t the first time my criticism of a book has had others scurrying for the tar and feathers and the “that’s not very Christian of you!” censure. I’m sure it won’t be the last, either, since when I look on Goodreads and Amazon I see that the standard form is to pass out five stars and effusiveness or to sit on ones hands.
I believe this is the readers’ version of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
While that is a very good rule for getting along with people I don’t really believe that anyone is served by that attitude.
As everyone who reads this blog knows, I’m cursed with a chronic affliction. No, not the RA or the Endo or the malabsorption/malnutrition or the Dercum’s. I’m talking about the INTJ personality.
INTJs focus their energy on observing the world, and generating ideas and possibilities. Their mind constantly gathers information and makes associations about it. [T]heir primary interest is not understanding a concept, but rather applying that concept in a useful way. … INTJs are driven to come to conclusions about ideas. Their need for closure and organization usually requires that they take some action.
To an INTJ like me, finding a way to improve something is one of the most useful services we believe we can offer the world. We don’t offer criticism to tear people down, to make people feel less-than or to be snarky. An INTJ’s criticism differs greatly from the snarky takedowns so popular at Television Without Pity and other places on the web. We don’t aim to make fun or to belittle but to say “in the analysis of this, here is how it can be improved.” And as often as we provide this “service” to others, we exercise it against ourselves exponentially more.
One of the biggest themes of my adult life has been the modulation of my desire to provide constructive criticism with a learned sensitivity to those around me. Believe it or not, because I desire to use my superpowers for good, the last thing I want to do is alienate those around me. After 6 years of blogging my words are now precisely measured, thoroughly considered and carefully constructed. It is a rare thing for me to make any comment or blog post without thinking it through thoroughly. In that way I try to communicate my thoughts on things without crushing the other folks. But apparently I still have a long way to go.
Now, when it comes to book reviews I must be very clear. You will only see an effusive five-star review from me when I truly mean it. When the book is so life-changingly delicious that I want to re-read it immediately. I admire the skill and perserverance of anyone who has finished a book (or can spell perserverance). But even if you are a good friend, I’m not going to give your book 5 stars unless it is among the best examples of that type of work. Reading and writing is what I do, what I take seriously. And I take it seriously enough to constantly be looking for ways to improve. So I’m sorry, fellow Christians, but I consider it part of my duty as a believer to use the tools God gave me in order to make this world a better place. That includes having our work as Christians be the absolute best we can do.