I have yet to meet someone who enjoys being criticized. While we might appreciate constructive criticism, we rarely feel it is actually “constructive” in the true sense of the word. In fact, we often have people in our life who pinpoint a deficiency in our character and relentlessly pursue it: a mother who constantly critiques the way her daughter raises her children; a father who always corrects the way his son maintains his house; an employer who humiliates his employee’s work; a spouse who never says a good word about their beloved.
Your first response when you see these characters coming is to flee. Who wants to willingly become a target? Yet, where do we run when the attacks keep coming? The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 7:
“Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.” (1-2)
When words like arrows tear into our heart, we flee to our God who surrounds us like a shield. When the constant criticisms of our fellow man assail us, leaving us with self-doubt and confusion, we plant ourselves firmly in the refuge of our Lord. This takes practice, as we persistently turn to the promises of scripture and God’s assessment of us. Which do you value more: What men say about you, or what God knows about you?
This doesn’t mean that we are above critique or that we should shield ourselves every time someone offers us rebuke or criticism. Trusted words from a good friend (and even, at times, an enemy) can lead us to greater self-examination and subsequently to be a better person. The Psalmist understood this as well:
“Lord my God, if I have done this
and there is guilt on my hands —
if I have repaid my ally with evil
or without cause have robbed my foe—
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;
let him trample my life to the ground
and make me sleep in the dust.” (3-5)
More than anything, we want God to lead the way in our self-discovery; we want his gracious hand to expose our sins—even if it means suffering the consequences of our mistakes. Our greatest desire isn’t to be comfortable but conformed to his will. When we shelter ourselves in God’s promises and truth about our identity, listening to trusted friends under the guidance of God in prayer, we will discover a much happier and holier existence. A calm spirit comes from the confidence we have in God’s assessment and judgment of us AND our critics:
“Arise, Lord, in your anger;
rise up against the rage of my enemies.
Awake, my God; decree justice.
Let the assembled peoples gather around you,
while you sit enthroned over them on high.
Let the Lord judge the peoples.
Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,
according to my integrity, O Most High.”