On 28 January 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven of its crew. It was caused by something as simple as an ‘O-ring’ seal failing in the right solid rocket booster. It led to a catastrophic sequence of events that led to a structural failure of the fuel tank. Quite simply, the forces were so great that the shuttle disintegrated. On 1 February, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry, killing all seven astronauts after a debris strike on launch damaged a piece of foam insulation.
In both cases, investigators were highly critical of the structures within NASA. One investigation found that healthy debate and critique had been suppressed and after the second disaster it was alleged that “a compromise of safety was expected no matter who was in the decision making position”.
In other words, NASA, for a period in its history, stopped doing debate and critique. It lost the ability to take a good, hard look at itself and its procedures. It was documented that constructively critical voices were silenced and debate suppressed. This led to catastrophe.
Debate, analysis and critique are a hugely important and healthy part of an organisation’s life. In fact, in the movement that I lead we aren’t afraid to rip apart our own work. Often an email will go out at Christian Vision for Men (CVM) that says something like:“Here’s an email that I’ve drafted, please pull it apart and make any suggestions…”
We don’t take it personally if it gets trashed simply because we want to do the best that we can. If a project fails, we take a good hard look at the reasons why, dust ourselves off and start again. We don’t want to grow stale and we don’t want to miss a good idea. Anyone in the staff team can feed in ideas and comment on what we are doing. We try hard to not get precious about stuff. It doesn’t always work out but that’s what we’re aiming for.
This is however markedly different to cynicism and complaint.
Healthy and constructive feedback should always be done in an atmosphere of optimistic hope because that is the nature of the gospel. We’ve read the last page; it’s got a good ending. We know that it all pans out alright and that God is good. So why would we want to flounce around in a defeated manner, moaning about everything and complaining about stuff?
Why mention this? Well because for sometime now I’ve been concerned about what I see on social media.
Debate is one thing, cynicism is another. It often seems that anything new and fresh gets slaughtered on Twitter. A conference that blesses some people is pilloried by others. A politician says something positive about Christianity and Christians attack. We may not agree all the time with what’s said but the trend is more to attack and moan than bless and encourage. In fact, I think Twitter would look like a far better place if we all determined to speak well of each other and believe the best and gave the benefit of the doubt. Actually, while I’m on the subject of Twitter, it would be good to see people promoting each other as much as themselves (and take more heed of Matthew 6:1). I digress.
Critique, yes. Debate? Definitely. Thrashing an idea around? Absolutely! Cynical sarcasm and point scoring? Put a sock in it.
Let’s outdo one another in giving honour and have a bit more Romans 12:9-21.