November 1, 2022
Consider the Source
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"The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." Proverbs 15:2 (NIV)
It was one of those voicemails that left me rubbing the sides of my head, wondering, Why me? Why today? I was blindsided by the criticism and felt this would be the perfect time to find a hole and crawl into it.
Criticism hurts - no matter who you are, how many people are encouraging you, or how happy you felt before you got "that call" or "that email" or "that comment on social media."
When we're trying to keep our hearts swept clean, pursue Jesus, read His Word and take steps of healing every single day, we have a choice in these things. We can stay disciplined in these things. But criticism is different. We can be doing all of the "right" things, and criticism still shows up on our front doorstep completely unsolicited and usually at the worst time.
In these moments, I wish I had an escape route. But I don't.
However, I do have a perspective shift that has helped me, and I want to encourage you with it today: Harsh and unnecessary criticism may say more about that person's insecurities than our inadequacies.
This isn't to puff ourselves up in pride and shame the critical person. No, it's actually a posture of humility that allows us to maintain a compassionate heart when criticisms are thrown at us. Rather than reacting out of defensiveness and emotion, we can consider the source of this criticism and discern if this person is offering their criticism to help us or intending to hurt us.
If there's some truth to the criticism, we should consider a course correction. However, if the criticism is only destructive and hurtful, we must remember the words of Proverbs 15:2b: "... the mouth of the fool gushes folly." The definition of "folly" is a "lack of understanding or sense."
Again, this verse isn't meant to be weaponized and used to label as a "fool" the one criticizing us. But their criticism may reveal that there is a lack of understanding driving what they've said.
My counselor always reminds me to get "curious, not furious." Sometimes asking questions or starting conversations instead of immediately trying to defend myself helps me stay more calm. I can say things like "Help me understand why this is bothering you so much" or "Thank you for caring about me enough to bring this to my attention. What are you hoping I do with this information?"
We might not feel like being calm at first. But I’m learning that staying calm is as much a gift to myself as it is to the one criticizing me.
When I take the time to stay calm, I am much more able to process some of the emotional charge that happens when criticism comes my way. I will better be able to manage my reaction if I lead my brain with thoughts like, This is one person's opinion, but it isn't the entire world's opinion. If there is something helpful in what they are saying, then I can take that and release the rest. And lastly, I'm safe and I can move forward.
While we can't choose what comes at us, we can choose not to compound criticism by adding our poor reactions into the mix. We can choose not to compound criticism and instead respond with a gentle, God-honoring response.
We can also open up needed dialogue surrounding healthy boundaries that may need to be implemented into this relationship. If we sense someone's actions are constantly having a negative impact on our mood, reactions or the way we feel about ourselves, we may need to consider reducing this person's access to our most vulnerable emotions and limited resources. This will look different for each of us, but this boundary could be as simple as muting someone on social media to prevent ourselves from getting triggered. This may be a better first step than unfollowing them ... but if unfollowing is more appropriate, then we can make that choice.
None of this is easy to navigate. And I'm so sorry for any hurtful criticism that has come your way and made you doubt that you're anything less than the holy, dearly loved child of God who you are. As you consider these truth-filled perspectives today, you may find it helpful to further process with a trusted friend or Christian counselor so you can find a way to guard your heart from criticism moving forward.
God, criticisms can cut my heart so deeply. Heal my heart of any past critical scripts I'm still holding on to. Help me release any hurtful accusations or comments and instead walk in my God-given identity today. Please show me where I may need to consider drawing healthy boundaries in any relationships where I'm continually feeling criticized. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Want more practical wisdom for navigating hurtful situations and hard relationships in your life? Lysa TerKeurst wrote her new book, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are, just for you! When you preorder your copy today, you'll immediately receive exclusive preorder gifts that are only available until November 7! These gifts include early access to the first three chapters of the book and audiobook, plus an exclusive, never-released podcast episode from Therapy & Theology on toxic relationship dynamics. Preorder your copy here.
Find real-life encouragement when you connect with Lysa TerKeurst here on Instagram.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
Proverbs 18:21, "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit-you choose."(MSG)
How might you be able to use your words in a fruitful way today instead of a critical way? Share with us in the comments!
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