I clicked on the message request from a stranger and began reading. My heart sank at the assault of harsh words. I didn’t know the woman who sent the message, but she hurled accusations at me about an article I’d written, judging my heart and motives. She finished by suggesting I quit writing altogether.
The message arrived at the end of a long day. I was on deadline and exhausted, and I’d had a tense, emotional conversation with a friend only hours earlier. While the talk with my friend had ended well, discouragement rumpled my spirit. This critical letter now had me feeling defeated.
Even in cases of helpful feedback or constructive criticism, I don’t think any of us relish being told our shortcomings. I want others to help me see my blind spots, but the process is inevitably painful. Understandably, the unchecked and even unfair disapproval of others can be especially brutal. (Can’t we all just get along?) This wasn’t the first time I’ve experienced criticism, so here are three positive ways I’ve learned to deal with it.
Listen. When someone delivers a critical comment, I think it’s helpful to realize there could be truth in what they say. James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” These are words I seek to live out when someone offers me feedback.
I don’t have to agree with their analysis, but when I listen to understand, I allow truth — whether a kernel or a boulder — to sink into my heart. Proverbs 19:20-21 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” God uses correction and at times criticism to make me wise and prepare me for His purposes.
Invite God to search your heart. After my tense conversation with my friend, I spent some time with the Lord, asking Him to reveal to me things I may have done to create relational tension. In Psalm 139:23-24 David writes: “Search me, 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.”
At times, criticism may be a signal that something is off with my heart or motives. If I’m being accused of something, I can take that to God and invite His loving correction. It’s freeing to realize that I’m accountable to God and God alone. I will disappoint people — sometimes because of my sin and sometimes for reasons beyond my control. But I don’t have to worry about making others happy. God knows my heart, and as I seek to please Him I will love others better.
Move forward. I was recently talking with a godly older woman about mentoring youth. “What do you do if they reject what you have to offer?” I asked.
“You are not responsible for another person’s response,” she said. “A negative response doesn’t mean God won’t use you somewhere else. He’ll bring the people who need to listen; you just need to tell the story.”
Jesus told His disciples to shake the dust off their sandals if people refused to listen to their message. I have wasted precious time and energy agonizing over someone’s undeserved criticism of me. Rejection is part of life, and sometimes the best course of action is to shake off unwarranted critique and move forward in grace — grace for yourself and for the other person.
My true identity
When I read the harsh message from a stranger on a day I was already struggling with discouragement, I recognized it for what it was — an attack from the enemy. I did not need to accept the condemnation it contained. Romans 8:1 tells me, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”
After reading it once, I deleted the message and asked the Holy Spirit to remind me of what was true. Jesus loves me. I am accepted by Him. He guides me, strengthens me and defends me. I am His beloved daughter. God approves of me. And ultimately, His opinion is the only one that matters.
Copyright 2022 Suzanne Gosselin. All rights reserved.