January 22, 2009
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11 (NIV)
When I was a junior in high school, I had a particularly hard teacher. On her first test, I got a C. I was a good student, and went into her classroom after school one day to learn how to do better on the next test. I’ll never forget her sarcastically-spoken words “You aren’t an A student are you?” Many years later I can think of lots of snappy comebacks, but as a relatively shy 16 year-old, I only remember mumbling something and leaving the room. Her critical comment left no doubt about her purpose – to put me in my place.
Criticism takes many forms, from “innocent” questions and comments, to direct insults. But the effect of criticism is the same; it can set a woman on the sidelines of life faster than anything. Out of the race…out of God’s service. This is especially true in churches, where many women avoid serving in order to avoid criticism.
As a semi-perfectionist and recovering people-pleaser, I’m particularly sensitive to criticism. In the past, I have reacted either defensively, or with tears to unkind comments. By looking at Jesus, however, I’m learning to deal with those who find fault with my decisions, either in ministry or in my personal life. I’ve learned a few questions that help me critique criticism when it comes my way:
What is the truth? Unfortunately, our response to criticism is muddled by a sinful nature. We aren’t always able to see the true motives behind our critics. If we have been deeply hurt in the past, we may see criticism as rejection, when it isn’t. So I start by asking if the person speaking has a history of truthfulness. If the answer is yes, then I look for the truth in the message. Sometimes, well-meaning people offer important feedback in an inappropriate way. If the person speaking unkind words has a history of unfounded negative attacks, or has manipulative motives, then I probably won’t place as much stock in her comments.
Is it just a matter of opinion? Sometimes people just disagree on the details. For instance, if you are planning an event in May and you decide to use orange napkins. Someone could say that orange is a poor choice for May and that it should only be used with autumn colors. This is just a matter of opinion and shouldn’t be taken personally.
Is this a sin issue? This may be harder to identify as we are often blinded to our own sin. The sin of pride is one that many women struggle with and easily overlook. While we may miss it in our own lives, you can be sure others won’t miss it. When someone criticizes you, humbly approach the Lord in prayer and ask Him to reveal any sin in your life. The Psalmist offered this approach in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (NIV).
Our lives are too short, and our callings too great, to be sidetracked by critics. When I have whined at God that I can’t take the negative opinions of others any more, He gently reminds me that His Son got lots of criticism. Looking at it that way, when I’m criticized for doing God’s will and work, it can be taken as a badge of honor and not a reason to quit.
Dear Lord, I long to do Your will, but sometimes my feelings get hurt by the unkind comments of others. Help me to discern the truth in those comments and to seek Your will above all else. Please reveal if there is anything in me that needs to change. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You when the negative words of others make me feel like quitting. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sandpaper People by Mary Southerland
Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild
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Consider the most critical person in your life. If you hold a grudge against that person, or have any unforgiveness in your heart, confess that to God so that you may be healed from bitterness.
What are some reasons people are critical of others?
What can I learn from criticism?
Responding to criticism with kindness is disarming. What are some kind responses you can use when someone criticizes you?
Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe …” (NIV)
Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (NIV)
© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G, Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Thursday, 22 January 2009.