Ya’ll are hands down the most kind, tender, loving and encouraging blog readers a girl could ever have. I mean that. I read and appreciate every comment you take the time to write. You make me laugh, smile, reflect, and press on.
I look forward to getting up every morning to read, study, and write my blog. These are some of my most favorite moments of the day.
But every now and then a little squirrely email sneaks its way into my inbox. (Not from you… squirrely email people don’t read my blog.)
And y’all, my flesh just wants to rise up and tell said squirrel to get a life. I mean really.
Of course, that’s not what I say. But, in those few seconds (minutes) while I’m waiting for the Holy Spirit to reign me in, that’s exactly what I think.
I hope you never have to deal with harsh critics. I really do. Unfortunately, some people get high from trying to drag other people low. I’m not sure why this is.
Isn’t there enough yuck going around in this world where we sisters in Christ can just decide not to add to it?
I think so.
Truly we have a choice everyday with the words we give to other people. We can use our words to breathe life into another person or we can use our words to suck the life right out them.
There is a place to say the hard things sometimes, but we don’t have to be harsh. Even those times can be life-giving if we handle it correctly. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.
For today, I thought it might be helpful for you to see how I stop the cycle of negativity when someone sends me a harsh criticism.
1. Remember, the part from above where I told you about letting the Holy Spirit reign me in. Yes. That pause is absolutely necessary. Heaven help me if I let my first reaction be what spews out. Spewing causes conflict escalation rather than conflict dissipation. Proverbs 15:1 is a good verse to remember, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
2. I try to give a harsh sister the benefit of the doubt. Surely, somewhere tangled within her words, there really is some sort of good intention. So, if I respond, I will usually start my reply by saying:
Dear _____________, Thank you so much for caring enough about me and my ministry to share your thoughts….
Now, sometimes I will choose not to respond. I trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to me when I should and should not take the time to address a critic. Sometimes, people will just be mean because they are in the mood to be mean- and nothing I could ever say will make things better.
3. Just because someone has gotten their feelings all wadded up, doesn’t mean they are right. However, I challenge myself to see things from her vantage point. Is there any call to action I can see in this? How can I make her criticism work for me and not against me? It’s amazing how the Lord graciously allows me to see a different side of things when I have this perspective.
I will address the issue at hand from my vantage point while acknowledging any call to action that might be there. For example:
“It would never be my intention to ______________. Thank you for helping me see that in the future I might consider__________.”
Sometimes I will further explain myself and help them see things from my vantage point, and sometimes I won’t. Again, I trust the Holy Spirit to lead me in this.
4. In the end, giving a gracious response usually negates whatever issue someone has with me. I can’t tell you the number of times the harshest of critics have wound up apologizing to me after getting a gentle reply. But no matter the outcome, if I am gentle and respectful, I can always go to bed with a clear conscience. A great verse to remember is 1 Peter 3:15-17:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
And all my Jesus girlfriends said, “Amen!”