Can we can talk about criticism for a minute? I’m not talking about a critique you might get from a professor or employer that will help you grow. Being critiqued is warranted, and even needed.
The difference between a critique and criticism is simple. A critique is constructive. Criticism is destructive. A critique points out improvements that build you up if you put the work in to make the necessary changes. Criticism takes shots that tear someone down.
I recently went through an experience that hurt. Words were said to me that stung. They weren’t accurate. And it was in front of other people. It caught me by surprise. It felt like a verbal sucker punch. And days later, after really stepping back to look at the situation from a fresh perspective, the Lord showed me something…
“You are going to have to get used to some criticism.”
As I sat in front of my Bible this morning right after hearing that on my heart, I re-read a passage I’d forgotten about from about 2 months ago.
“Pay no attention to insults, and when mocked don’t let it get you down. Those insults and mockeries are moth-ridden, from brains that are termite-ridden.” (Isaiah 51:7b-8a Message Version)
That sounds harsh there at the end. What I heard from it is that criticism comes from cobwebs. From a source that hasn’t had a new idea in a long time. You know, where moths hang out? Attics. You know what’s in attics? Old stuff. Barely used stuff. On it’s best day the occasionally re-purposed stuff. But no one ever runs to the attic excited about the new idea. They walk there slowly to look through old pictures of what used to be. Old memories are fine. But when someone uses them to disparage your new idea, just remember….Moths eat holes in old stuff, and termites feed on dark, damp places where no attention is paid any longer.
Here are 3 reasons you’ll be criticized, and the one reminder you’ll need, so that you don’t stop walking out what you’ve been called to do.
- Your new idea reminds them that they haven’t had one in a long time. Don’t gloat about it. Don’t use it to feel better about yourself. Remember that the Lord gave it to you because He’s equipped you to see it through…not because you are better than them. That said…the fact that they didn’t have the idea, and you did, can feel threatening to the critic. Hand out grace through a smile and walk away. You’ve got work to do so that the opportunity God has given you comes to pass. You’ll waste time and energy engaging in defending what you don’t need to, by offering a come back to their criticism.
- Your new idea reminds them that they may have to change. What you are working on may end up changing someone’s current comfort level. The world they built and the coziness associated with it may no longer exist. That’s a tough place to walk in to. But if you are called to go there, go there. The arrogance of criticism often times comes because they are protecting the preference of a small number of people. There may be a much larger number of people you can’t see, that need your idea to break through, so that the oppression they are living in is released. Resistance is usually a marker that significant progress hangs in the balance of your obedience…to keep moving forward. Do it with honor. Say less. Do more. But get it done. You may have to duck on the way. But don’t stop.
- Your new idea reminds them they haven’t been leading well. This might be the hardest one. Your idea…or simply your presence…may remind them that they’ve mailed in the opportunity to lead well a long time ago. It may remind them that they used to be the one with a new idea, but they sacrificed it on the altar of attention. They walked away from what needed to be done a long time ago because it felt good to be in a position of authority. Someone promised them a position, if they’d be a “good soldier”. They may have forgotten what they should be fighting for. Your presence isn’t as much a threat because of who you are, as it is a reminder to them about who they used to be. Be graceful. Be compassionate. Allow them to find themselves again. Your new idea doesn’t have to be their demise. It can be their opportunity to find themselves again. But it depends on how you handle yourself. It isn’t about being right, it’s about showing honor. Remember where your idea came from. Specifically WHO it came from. Honor the Lord for sending you with the idea, so that they can see Him in this, not you.
And just in case you forget these things, remember this along the way…
Don’t live your life “…quaking like an aspen before the tantrums of a tyrant who thinks he can kick down the world.” (Isaiah 51: 13)
Let em’ kick.
On my better days as a parent, I didn’t overreact. I used to let my kids “kick it out” on the floor when they threw a tantrum. I realized that eventually, they’d exhaust themselves. The tears would stop. The screaming would stop. And whatever hurtful words they were spewing in the midst of it? I didn’t take them personally, because they weren’t meant for me. They were a marker of their frustration that they had been called out on something.
And it works the same in the big adult world.
Wait out the temper-tantrum.
Walk away from the criticism and the critic.
Work on the calling you’ve been given.
Criticism lets you know you are close.
One last thing…
Criticism you receive is a reminder of the opportunity you’ve been given.