Coping with Criticism

miami_package_feelthehealdetox“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” (Aristotle)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (Winston Churchill)

If you’re not encountering criticism, you’re not building relationships, because relationships should involve value-driven discussions and daily living, which will cause friction among individuals. Of course, the friction should be handled in God-honoring ways. We should respect one another even when we disagree, but how often do we think respecting each other is refusing to disagree? How God-honoring are we when we’re on the receiving end of the criticism? Do we take it personally and have difficulty as we think someone no longer likes us, or do we callously respond as if we don’t care because we’re going to be who we are regardless of what anyone says or thinks of us?

What do you learn from the following verses?

Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin, too. (Galatians 6:1)

In everything you say and do, remember that you will be judged by the law that makes people free. So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment. (James 2:12-13)

I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other. (John 13:34-35)

Accept into your group someone who is weak in faith, and do not argue about opinions. (Romans 14:1)

God certainly gave his children guidelines for criticizing others. We must be loving, gentle, and merciful. We are not excused from criticism; we are simply directed to criticize within God’s standards with his provision. We are to accept and respond to criticism in the same way—within God’s standards—even when people criticizing us are not adhering to the same standards. Just because another Christ-follower is bending God’s rules does not make it okay for us to bend God’s rules, thus, fighting fire with fire.

We cope with criticism with the same standards by which we’re to give criticism.

  • Be loving—by God’s standards.
  • Be gentle—by God’s standards.
  • Be merciful—by God’s standards.
  • Be forgiving—by God’s standards.

Responding to criticism by God’s standards is not the same as hiding feelings. It’s setting aside feelings for truth. God gave us feelings to enhance experiences not to distort the truth of a situation. Let God reveal the truth of a situation. You don’t need to know the person’s motives. You don’t need to know how the person will respond. All you need to know is…God. God is truth, and when you invite and trust him to guide, your motives will become God-driven and your responses will become God-guided. You will cope with criticism with God and for God. He is at the center of your life and your relationships, including criticism. Let him lead from the center.

Beyond Your Comfort

images (2)Who do you do life alongside? Who do you reach out to, encourage, invite, meet, involve? Where is your focus? When you’re in a group of people, do you stick with the people you know, or do you look around for people you don’t know? Do you stay in your comfort zone or step outside it? Is your response about you and what you’re accustomed to or what you want, or is your response and focus about reaching out to someone, meeting him/her where they are?

Where we focus is where we’ll go.

If we focus on the situations and the relationships with which we’re most comfortable, we might invest deeply, but we will miss out on the opportunities of new situations and relationships. If we only brush up against people and are never willing to get to know people on a deeper level, investing ourselves in them and letting them invest in us, we’ll miss out on the accountability, challenges, and growth of friendships.

Relationships atrophy without investment.

Without intentional authenticity, confrontation, and commitment, we won’t grow in relationships, which means we won’t grow as God intends. He created us for relationships, and we learn a lot about him as we live out his will among others. He’s not going to keep you in your comfort zone all the time. You’ll have some people who just seem comfortable to get to know. You’ll continue to invest and want to spend more and more time with the person. Sometimes, that’s great, but God sometimes brings that person into your life for a limited season so you get a snapshot of the possibilities of relationships. It doesn’t mean that person will be in your life for an extended time. In fact, if the comfort of the relationship becomes a crutch for you, making you unwilling to reach outside of it to other people, it can quickly become unhealthy. If the ease of the relationship becomes a measurement standard by which all future relationships are compared, it can quickly become unhealthy.

God only has one standard for relationships: Himself.

He determines the when, how, what, and why of the relationship. He guides us to connect or disconnect, but in order to hear and respond to him, we have to remain connected to him. When our focus is on God, we know when we’re supposed to stay and talk to the great friend standing in front of us and when we’re supposed to leave the comfort behind and walk across the room to introduce ourselves to someone new. When our focus is on God, we know when we’re supposed to invest deeply into someone’s life even when it demands a sacrifice of time and effort and when we’re supposed to trust someone to invest in us as we authentically share.

Relationships involve you, but they’re ultimately not focused on you. They’re focused on God and his will for the relationship, and until we fully yield, we won’t have the relationships he wants us to have. He will create a rich myriad of relationships in your life–some will be long-term and some will not, some will take intense effort and some will seem easy, some will be tied to location and circumstances and some will seem to transcend distance and situations. But in order to begin and develop the relationships he wants for you, you have to take your focus off yourself and your assumptions about those around, be willing to step outside your comfort zone, focus on God, and respond to his timing and guidance.

God is preparing you beyond your comfort zone. Take a step of faith.

The Crushing Cost of Quarrels

water explosion

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14)

Some battles are worth fighting, but quarrels are wastes of time – time we’ll never recover or relive. I know some people who want to argue just for the sake of being able to prove a point and be declared “right.” But “right” at what cost?

Many of the things we disagree about aren’t paramount. They aren’t life-giving or life-changing. Yet through the disagreements, we damage each other. We try to dismantle the other point of view, but in the process, we dismantle friendships. We erode our own credibility. We elevate ideas or even ourselves in arrogant ways. The points we prove aren’t just about the content of our quarrels. We prove many things about ourselves that we might rather ignore.

Watching someone throw fuel on a fire might give a momentary thrill, but it’s destructive. So, the next time you dig in your heels to prove a point or spew your viewpoint on social media, remember: a breached dam isn’t cleansing; it’s destructive.

Assumed Motives

2015-09-04_16-19-24Why do we assume we know someone’s motives?

We think they’re irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, disorganized, or a myriad of other motives. When we don’t like the way someone responds, we can quickly assume we know his or her reason. And rarely is that assumption positive. We can slowly think we know someone in ways that we really don’t.

And that’s dangerous to a relationship, whether it’s at home, work, ministry, or in friendships. We need to be patient enough to clarify through observing patterns over time or simply asking, “Just so I don’t take this the wrong way, can you let me know if you’re (irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, etc.)?”

Much of the time, if we’re willing to honestly listen and change our assumptions, we’ll find we’re wrong. And in the process, we’ll let others know we care enough to listen. We’ll try to understand them even when we wouldn’t do things the same way. We’re willing to let someone change what we assume.

And in the process, we’ll deepen our relationships. After all, people are more important than assumptions. People are more important than being right or having things our own way. Listening and being challenged isn’t comfortable, but it’s essential if we want to grow, both personally and relationally.

 

Community Encouragement

4578cd815ff7c7285250863a1e23cae9.jpgTherefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

How does encouraging others help them?

How does encouraging others help you?

What have you been building through this season of life, or rather, what has God been building?

We often think of encouragement as a personal thing. We send an encouraging note or someone says just the right words when we need to hear them. We think of encouragement as a moment or action, but it’s so much more.

Encouragement can become a habit, a characteristic, not just personally but in a relationship or across a community. Encouragement isn’t an individual task or accomplishment. It is intended to be given and received. Encouragement is shared. It builds community, and it can characterize a community. It’s how we build one another up. With each encouragement, we place one brick on top of another and build a bridge across which we can reach each other and take journeys into new adventures.

Encouragement reaches out to others, whether we are giving or receiving. It opens our hands and hearts. And it’s not always a pat on the back that makes us feel good. Encouragement is also challenging. It’s a dose of courage that speaks the truth in love. It can never be ill-intended or dishonest but it is also never overly sweet and sappy. It is authentic. It is equipping. It is inspiring, and it always spurs change and growth.

Pay attention today and share encouragement as often as you can. Sometimes encouragement happens with a moment, and sometimes it’s an investment over time. Either way, you can be characterized by it. Discern what you are supposed to say and do to whom and when. God will guide you. Refuse to take matters into your own hands, but don’t drag your feet and declare God isn’t encouraging you to encourage others. He always does!

The Beginning and the End

love_endures_foreverPsalm 118 begins and ends with the same words:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1,29)

What if we bookended every day, every situation, every conversation with this reminder? How would this consistent claim give context to everything we do, say, and think?

We repeat things to ourselves all the time. We have favorite mantras we live by and repeatedly claim. We share them with others as we deem appropriate. But how truthful is what we claim to ourselves? How humble are we to seek the truth in what we live by?

How will you bookend today? How will you fill the in-between?

When Friends Betray

communication-73331Now it is not an enemy who insults me—otherwise I could bear it; it is not a foe who rises up against me—otherwise I could hide from him. But it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion and good friend! We used to have close fellowship; we walked with the crowd into the house of God. (Psalm 55:12-14)

The distance between people who have never been close rarely feels as far as cracks and chasms that grow between people once close to each other. The latter might be minute in comparison to the former, but it can feel overwhelming, isolating, and painful.

When distance grows, we feel betrayed. Not always, but it’s strongly possible we’ve had something to do with the betrayal (and distance). Even our reactions can influence the crack-soon-to-be-chasm. We can’t change what someone else does, but we can certainly choose how to respond to it.

When friends betray us, we don’t have to betray them. It might be wise to keep our distance, but we can choose respect, forgiveness, and compassion, even if it’s in our attitudes and conversations that have nothing to do with direct communication with them.

When friends betray us, we don’t have to betray them. It’s easier to build a bridge over a crack than a chasm.