Like it or not, it’s coming your way. I can’t tell you how to deal with it. I can’t even tell you how long it will take you to discover it. Truthfully, it will probably discover you.
I can assure you that at some point in your life you will deal with a certain level of criticism from another human being. Maybe it’ll be a perfect stranger or maybe a close friend.
I do believe that God allows things into our lives to sharpen, shape, and steer us. But I am also convinced that we have to be a little more aware of the sources, effects and outcomes of all criticism.
I recently realized that criticism could become an invisible but powerfully restricting prison. It’s important that we are in a position to receive, filter and grow from ALL types of criticism.
A lot of times in ministry or even just everyday life we are confronted with crucial moments of choice in regards to negative criticism. If you’re like me, your knee jerk reaction is to combat criticism with defensive statements or broken questions of confusion.
Why are we so easily affected by comments, critiques, and suggestive conversations?
Maybe we don’t trust the person who is doing the talking.
Maybe we deeply value the opinions of others.
Maybe it’s that we want everyone to like us.
Maybe we feel like the criticism is all true.
Maybe we know it’s all false.
Maybe it’s pride.
Maybe it’s fear.
Whatever the case, I have discovered some attributes of criticism that seem to be universal.
Negative criticism attacks our character not our content.
Years ago, I was asked to speak at a youth event and I was excited. Within minutes of climbing off of the stage, I received some pretty intense criticism from a gentleman. I remember feeling like I had done my very best in terms of preparation and delivery. However, in this case, my best was not even close to someone’s expectations.
At that point in my journey, I really didn’t have any sort of road map that could even guide me through the emotions and frustration. But now in hindsight, I have learned some things about criticism. I hope they help you in your moments of weakness and confusion.
Negative criticism zooms in and overwhelms our perspective with negativity.
I believe that criticism has a unique power that, when handled with care, can be very helpful to our lives. Criticism has the power to strip us from a comfortable place and move us into a very honest space.
Criticism wants marriage when it only deserves a phone call. In other words, we sometimes allow it to attach to who we are forever instead of being just a brief moment of interaction.
Criticism stinks. It just does. It hurts. It never feels good to have someone give you negative critiques. However, the most crucial moments in my life were often because of comments, critiques, and conversations. We can’t allow our minds to dwell on the negativity that may be coming in from various sources.
Here is my filter:
1. Lord, who do you say I am? (before I address the opinions of a stranger I consult with the one who saved me)
2. Lord, show me the truth. (we are not above correction, but we are above allowing correction to capture us and not catapult us)
3. Lord, I just want to be like you. (making sure that my heart at the end of the day is postured in the direction of Christ is crucial)
We can’t grow if we don’t learn to listen to the critiques. Notice I didn’t say “believe” or “trust” the critiques. Listening is the true origin of all learning. If we just got real for a second, I think we would all agree on this one idea.
We are often our worst critic. Comparison sneaks in. Competition challenges us to be better or more successful than others at whatever the cost. That is why I think it’s important for us to establish a personal filter that is both spiritual and practical in nature.
Do you want to know what happens to us when we don’t learn to appropriately filter negativity?
We become critics. Experts at everything, and desperate to tell and show the world how much we know (or at least how much we think we know).
Maybe you have met some of these people?
You can’t bring up how good a concert was or how much you enjoyed a certain book without this person giving you a dissertation that typically ends with you feeling like a lost sinner.
Many critiques become factories of negativity, jealousy, and deceit. The worst thing is, they don’t even see it happening. In fact, they feel justified.
When you become the critic, you have a hard time learning. You build fortified walls in the name of emotional safety and arrogant stability. When we do this we keep everyone and every experience at arms length away.
Learning becomes a thing of the past.
So what’s the answer?
In a time long ago, kings would sit upon their thrones and have full days dedicated to words of encouragement. They would literally have people from their kingdom speak only positive things to and about them all day long. Some of us wish that we had people like this in our lives. Some of us may even unknowingly be surrounding ourselves with people who only say positive things about us.
We have to have both sides of the coin. The kings of long ago had discovered this truth. They knew that positivity alone is just as deadly as negativity alone. They would also hire a man to speak humbling words to them all day to equalize their perspective. This hired helper would stand beside the king and whisper in his ear, “You are just a man.” The kings knew that balance was important.
I believe we all need balance. We need people who will be honest and straight up even when it hurts. We also need people who will build us up with positivity and encouragement.
The reality is that we will never be in control of what others do or say. That’s why your filter is key.
Have you encountered criticism that has left you frozen and unsure of what to believe?
Do you have a way of sifting through the hate mail?
I challenge you to create a filter that is not built around fear.
Don’t let anything steal your joy. At the end of the day your heavenly Father is growing you and believe it or not, He is growing your worst critic as well! Take heart.