Dealing with Criticism
If you believe in Jesus, the joy of the Lord is inside of you. God gives us His joy to counteract troubles along life’s way. Joy is one of the gifts the Holy Spirit brings along for us when He comes into our lives. And we need to learn to unwrap this joy gift and take it out and use it to win over the depression we may feel when we are judged or criticized unfairly.
Many years ago we were judged and ostracized by a large group. This group of Christians that my husband and I considered “family” gradually one by one quit speaking to us. With our world collapsing, we tried to ask what the problem was, but no one would tell. What had we done to offend? Could we clear up a misunderstanding? Everyone seemed to know something that we didn’t know and no one would tell us what it was. We seemed to be up against a stone wall of silence.
Time passed and we never learned why we had been rejected. Never learned what these people who had been our friends were saying about us. Never could figure out what we had done to be disrespected! The painful incident left us in a fog, feeling like something must be wrong with us that we were unaware of.
My husband was big enough to put those trying times behind him and move on. But since the question of why it happened was never answered in my mind, I never completely let it go. There was always a piece of the puzzle missing. If I could find that missing piece, or find the reason we were treated so badly, then I could have “closure” and move on, so I reasoned. Years passed and the other day I started thinking about it again and trying again to figure out why. But then right away a Bible verse popped into my mind.
I sensed that the Lord was speaking to me through this Scripture verse. And here it is: “Do not remember the former things: neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth: do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and give you rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 42:9) And another passage from Paul: “One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13) I believe the Lord was telling me to give my unanswered questions to Him and forget them and forget our past problem and go out and enjoy today. To live in the present.
We will all face criticisms and judgments – stone walls that we can’t get around no matter how hard we try. Satan wants to mire us down in guilt. Keep telling us there is something wrong with us. Scripture says that Satan is our accuser. (Revelations 12:10) But God promises to be with us and make us what we need to be to accomplish good things. Scripture says: “”Cast all your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you. Be self- controlled and alert for your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings as you are.” (1 Peter 5:7-9)
God’s plan for us is for us to enjoy life. But sometimes we will have work to do to make that happen. Deal with the first phases of depression at the onset! Pray and give every problem to God. God has given us the gift of joy and we must not let the devil steal our joy. We can bask in Christ’s love and recognize our great worth in Him and not allow others to drag us down and make us feel worthless. They will be there to try so we need to be ready. Otherwise we can be pulled into the undertow of false shame and worthlessness. Even when we have made a mistake, let’s not beat ourselves up for something that God has forgiven us for. (Acts 10:15)
We can be humble enough to accept constructive criticism but not give our power away to people whose criticism is unfounded. Be extra careful and guard our hearts when we are with hurtful people. Refuse to accept their put downs and refuse to play their game by returning put downs. Sometimes we will be criticized because we don’t agree with another person on an issue. If we can’t agree to disagree and we can’t change our minds, then we may have to pay the price of being criticized or rejected by the other person. There is often a price to pay for sticking with our convictions.
Jesus sometimes didn’t say anything when he was asked insulting questions. Scripture says: “He who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap decay and ruin but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8) I think the Lord is telling us here not to return criticism for criticism. Not to play the world’s game but follow the leading of the Spirit. – not always easy. As Scripture says: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
When we are attacked we should pray and not hold on to anger. Forgive and forget so that we can continue a loving and joyful life. Joy is infectious so we can spread it around. God will do a new thing in our lives but we must save our energies for that. God always has something fresh. Scripture says: “His compassions and mercies never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) God is always giving us new gifts! New strength and new mercies for each new day! We can be joyful about that!
God instructs us to be filled with joy and to rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) There is power in rejoicing. Once when Paul and Silas were in prison they started praying and praising and singing to God and suddenly there was an earthquake and the foundations of the prison were shaken so that the prison doors flew open.” (Acts 16:25-26) The same power that opened prison doors for Paul and Silas is there for us today. When we feel imprisoned with disappointment we can rejoice in God and praise Him. The Lord fights our battles for us when we trust and praise Him. (2 Chronicles 20:17-22)
Scripture tells us that we have a river of life flowing out of us! Jesus said: “Whoever believes in Me, out of him/her will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) We have joy and peace inside us and faith and love, longsuffering and gentleness and self-control! Let’s not keep this life giving water locked up inside by a dam of resentment or anger. Clear the bad feelings out with forgiveness and get this life giving river flowing again!
And last but not least, if we have done all we can to create peace then let us stop worrying about the person who seems to hate us and wait for God to take care of things. He is capable of taking care of everything. There will be victory in the end, we have that assurance. Scripture says: “Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.” (Psalm 42:5) It doesn’t get any better than that!
Some of the ideas in this blog were taken from Joyce Meyer’s book, Straight Talk.