I’M NOT SURE THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO BE CRITICISED. And yet, where there’s smoke there’s often a fire, meaning for every criticism there’s usually something amiss that can be improved.
So, why do we take criticism so personally?
There are diverse range of factors that answer this—too big a range to be covered here, however. But, we usually feel criticised if we feel personally attacked; beneath that, of course, is a whole world of our pasts (and those unreconciled hurts) that often clouds our very response. And this occurs many levels often beneath that which we’re even conscious of.
Criticism has a role if we’ll let it. But to be able to safely accept criticism there is almost a whole world of re-programming we need to undertake to transform our thinking.
First, it is acknowledged that safety means protection. We’re not to allow ourselves to be wantonly criticised and torn down emotionally and spiritually, either in the person’s approach to us or our approach to what they say to us.
And yet, as far as protection is concerned, God is that for us. If we have an identity ‘stuck in’ him, we’re safe, simply because with him nothing else matters that much.
Here we can afford to be wrong. Indeed, we accept that we will often be wrong despite our best efforts. With God we can truly accept this. And this is emotional and spiritual freedom from the stinging fear of criticism.
The truth is we know that eventually—even routinely—we’ll be criticised. We need a way of coping with it effectively. This way suggested allows the criticism to take place—indeed, as mentioned, it’s going to happen anyway—but it makes sufficient room for us to experience the safety of God to protect us.
This stems from an identity fused in him; that we’ll never be perfect and we’ll make mistakes... also that we’re learners all our lives; every single one of us. This is a great and powerful truth to truly take hold of and make our own!
When to resist criticism...
There are times when we shouldn’t trust people.
There are those, it’s fair to say, who use the opportunity to criticise us (and our response is covered above). To live this life effectively we must have the moral courage to accept this criticism, generally.
There are, however, also those who’re abusers of criticism—these have the critical spirit alive, well and kicking within them. Criticism is part of their very identities. These people are set on tearing down others and this is due to their own rampant sense of insecurity and fear—we might even be surprised to find the sorts of positions these people hold in life, and how they got there is anyone’s guess.
From these, protection is simply avoidance—wise avoidance. This is not avoidance at any cost. It’s a wise avoidance to minimise exposure. It’s a distrusting—though honouring and respectful—avoidance which is not only okay; it’s actually backed by God.
This is the insight of discretion that we employ here. Biblical characters like Joseph and Mordecai were masters of it. It’s good to make a study of them so as to reap these empowering skills.
When we take a step back from these situations we can see into the abuser. They are scared little creatures really—for this we can even feel compassion for them; I mean, for who’d want to be in their skin?
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.