As a photographer, there’s one thing that really helps me grow. Apply it to whatever skill you or your kids are trying to learn, and I bet it will help you grow too!

My aspiration of becoming a professional photographer has pushed me to levels of experience I didn’t know existed. Half the time, I didn’t know I had higher to climb. I would learn something new, get excited about it and then settle happily into my new stage of knowledge, assuming I had reached the top. Subconsciously, I’m like, “Wow, I’m such a great photographer! I’ve grown so much!” My satisfaction actually blinded me to ways in which I still needed to grow. The danger lay in staying where I was while reasoning, “I’m doing great! It’s tough to practice, and why try new things when I can already produce photos that everybody says are absolutely amazing—and I totally agree?!?”

When my head is stuck in a cloud of satisfaction, I am timidly grateful for a very scary, but very kind, interruption that comes knocking on my door to wake me up. It’s called ‘critique’.

Critique can be embarrassing, but if I humbly listen, it offers amazing benefits. While it deflates my ego to hear that one of my masterful works of art has a flaw, a good critique from another knowledgeable person offers hope because it pushes me to polish rough edges till they shine. I grow the most when I listen, get up to practice again, and stretch myself beyond where I am so I can get where I want to be.

We all waste a lot of energy trying to earn another high-five or a pat on the back when instead we could be looking for ways to get people’s honest feedback on our work and asking them to point out ways we could do better. Brace yourself—honesty can sting, but in the end, it’s actually energizing!

Just as receiving critique gets me growing again, I’ve noticed that the process of growth feeds on itself. While I’m in the middle of learning a new technique, I’m very aware of how much I actually don’t know and how much more there is to learn. But when a whole month goes by and I haven’t actually touched my camera (or paint brush, or pen, or instrument), I start to think, “Hey, I’ve got a good grip on this photography stuff! I’m a professional. Professionals already have plenty of practice…” Laziness feeds on itself too; if you stop growing, you stop wanting to grow!

The same idea applies to relationships with people and, most importantly, our relationship with God. In these areas, we can ask people we know and trust to give an honest critique on areas where we need to grow. We might be so satisfied with where we are that we’re blind to the possibilities ahead of us. 

Romans 11:33 says, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” 

There is so much more depth to discover about our Lord. The process of going deeper with God takes a willingness to grow and push past new things and to hear honest critique from the Lord, and others, with a humble spirit. Just when I think I’ve reached the top with God, He’ll show me there is more to learn and higher to climb, not in a way that exhausts me but in a way that is stimulating and invigorating. There may be some sweat and tears along the way, but a bigger, deeper, wider life in Christ is worth it all. That life is a picture worth framing!

James Staddon is a former homeschool student, now full-time photographer and photography educator from West Virginia. With a background in graphic design, an endless preoccupation with photography, and a love for Christian discipleship, James started Lenspiration in 2009 to give young people a family-friendly place to learn photography. He and his wife enjoy outdoor recreation and traveling together for all types of photography adventures.