The other night the Lord told me to write this post and I laughed at the notion of doing so.
I said to my Father, “Lord, me writing this post would be like the equivalent to King David writing a book on, “How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage”, or Moses writing some guidelines on, “How to Enter the Promised Land with the Israelites”!”
“Both these men missed the mark and I’ve missed the mark as well. So do you really think I’m the best choice for this assignment?”
“Oh Daughter, yes they messed up, but their heart, their heart is what mattered to Me. Because they loved Me, they had a teachable spirit. And when someone has a teachable spirit they gain insight from their mistakes.”
“Daughter, you’ve gained insights from your mistakes, have you not?”
“Yes, Lord, I have.”
“So share what you’ve learned.”
To someone who is extremely sensitive to criticism because of all the rejection I’ve faced throughout my life, I typically don’t handle myself too well when the critical words start to rain down on me. 🙁 But regardless of how poor of an example I’ve been, I want to be obedient to my Lord, therefore, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned. Hopefully it will minister to you.
My natural reaction to criticism is to lash out with words that would do damage to the other person. If I could make them feel like an idiot in the process, even better!
But then I got saved and I knew that responding to criticism the way I used to was not Christ-like. So I did my best to hold my tongue. But my flesh, more specifically, my tongue, would undoubtedly win out on more occasions than I’d care to admit.
As I continued to grow in Christ the criticism didn’t hurt as much when it came from those that weren’t saved, after all, they couldn’t understand the Truth. (The Bible says it sounds foolish to them.) They weren’t attacking me, they were attacking the Message that I brought. Soon my skin grew thicker to the hurtful words. (I’d have to keep telling myself over and over again that they weren’t attacking me, they were attacking Jesus.)
So when unbelievers leave unkind and nasty comments here (or tell me in person) it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as when I hear criticism from Believers, those that claim to know the Truth but still feel it’s okay to be hurtful to a sister in Christ.
The last few days I was so disheartened by all of the professing Christians who left me rude and disrespectful comments that I felt like I didn’t want to come back to my computer. And that made me sad, because this place, which consists of my keyboard, a screen, and you, is just precious to me. It’s a place where our Holy and Mighty God shows up and ministers to not just you, but to me, as well! When I’m not teaching the Word of God or encouraging women in their faith, I’m not using my spiritual gifts to bring God glory, and that just grieves my soul. So yesterday I hurt because of that, however, I still didn’t want to be here because the criticism was too great for me to handle.
“You need to find God.”
“You don’t have a Godly marriage.”
“It sounds like your husband is abusive.”
“You’re encouraging those who come to this blog to live in a physically abusive relationship.”
And one of the worst of the offenders was a woman who said my words were “dishonest and even Satan used the Word of God when he spoke to others.” (Isn’t that sweet? To hear a Believer compare you to Satan as you pour out your life to lift God’s name on high?) My blood was boiling and I was fuming mad with righteous indignation. I so wanted to give her a piece of my mind! But my Father, He whispered….“Daughter, remember self-control!”
My sons saw that I wasn’t my usual self yesterday and they asked why.
“Well, I said, I get tired of being attacked and persecuted all the time, especially when it comes from Believers.”
But then my 13 year old son said something that really ministered to me.
“Why does it matter if they call themselves a Christian when they’re not acting like one?”
He was absolutely right!
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. Matt. 5:10-12
5 Tips to Handling Criticism in a Godly Manner
- First, consider the source. Is it an unbeliever who’s attacking you? Don’t give heed to their words, friend. The Enemy would love to destroy what God is doing in your life. Responding back to them is not always the best thing to do (especially if you’re responding on a blog, you’re on Facebook, you leave comments in cyberspace, etc.) People are generally meaner/bolder when they’re behind a screen then what they would be face to face. Also, if you don’t really know the person, it’s hard to influence them when you don’t have a personal relationship with them.
- If it’s criticism from a Believer, then ask questions so you can better understand their viewpoint. Maybe there’s a misunderstanding. If questioning is not possible and they’ve just lashed out at you, do your best to let it go. Realize that they’re not walking in the Spirit but rather, their flesh. And then forgive them! (Yes, you’ll need to take some deep breaths on this one!)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22,23
- Discern when to respond to the criticism and when not to. Are you defending the Truth or your character? Can you defend the Truth in a gentle and respectful way (1 Peter 3:15)? If you’re going to respond in the flesh, don’t respond at all. Leave your situation in the Lord’s hands and let Him deal with it. He knows your character and that’s the only opinion that matters.
- Pray for strength to be kind to your critics. Heap coals of kindness on their head. One time I had a nasty neighbor talking smack about me and I made her brownies. Mind you, I was sick and I didn’t feel well enough to even make dinner for my own family, but the Lord asked me to heap coals of kindness on her. What I really wanted to do was heap something on her, alright, and it certainly wasn’t kindness! Now just between you and me, while I was making those brownies I wanted to put Ex-Lax in them! But I refrained from doing so!
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Romans 12:19-20
- If need be, remove yourself from the situation so you don’t respond in the flesh and/or so you can protect your spiritual well-being. The comments that I was receiving from other Believers was sending me into a pit of discouragement and depression. Seeing how that’s not a good place for one to be in a spiritual sense, make sure you protect yourself so you don’t end up there. And if you happen to be in that pit, pray for the Lord’s strength to get out of it as soon as possible.
Oh how I would love to repay evil for evil, but, uh, well, I’m my Father’s daughter and I represent Him. So instead, I’ll do my best to keep my mouth shut when the criticism rains down. 🙂 Of course I don’t always succeed at this, but that’s what God’s grace is for!
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 1 Peter 3:8-11
Now a few updates….many of you have left me comments asking questions for guidance and I’m just a tad overwhelmed by the busyness of my blog right now but I will work on answering the comments one by one. Also, I mentioned in my last post about writing up a Biblical Submission ‘cheat-sheet’. Well, I’ve been working on it and I came up with a better name! Go figure. I’ve titled it, A Practical Guide to Understanding Biblical Submission. I’m keeping it relatively short because I don’t want it to be the length of a book. I’m hoping to get that completed and out to you soon.