Criticism Hurts

It was one of those voicemails that left me rubbing the sides of my head wondering, “Why me? Why today?” I was blindsided by this criticism. I felt this would be the perfect time to find a hole and crawl in it.

Instead I wrote this blog post.

Criticism hurts. It just does. No matter who you are, how many people are encouraging you, and how happy you felt before you got “that call,” one drop of critical yuck spreads fast and furious.

Oh how I wish I had a little “criticism antidote” to make it all better. I don’t. But I do have a little sermonette I preach to myself when criticized.

When someone criticizes we must quickly discern if they are trying to help us or hurt us.
When someone criticizes, we must quickly discern if they are trying to help us or hurt us. This is crucial for healthy relationships. www.lysaterkeurst.com

If it’s hurtful, realize their criticism says a lot more about their insecurities than our inadequacies.

We can’t fix whatever hurt caused them to lash out. But we can decide to stay calm and not compound the hurt. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” (Proverbs 15:1-2)

I didn’t want to give a gentle answer when I returned that phone call. I didn’t feel like being calm at all. But I’m learning staying calm is as much of a gift to myself as it is to my offender.


  1. says

    Lysa, I can really relate to your post. And being a sensitive person, I am often left wondering why certain things were said, or written. One thing I keep reminding myself of is, “hurting people hurt people.”

    I also remind myself if I want to help others it will be difficult at times and at other times painful.

    Being human at the moment I get hurt, I feel like lashing out, I feel like getting even.

    I read that it takes 9 things to wipe out a negative thing, so if you’ll indulge me.

    1) you minister to so many with your heart-felt words
    2) your transparency is refreshing
    3) your writing has staying power
    4) you encourage with the words you carefully choose
    5) you are a loving parent
    6) you are genuinely funny
    7) you give out of your struggles
    8) you have really helped me personally
    9) you reflect Jesus

    God has reminded me of your ear in funny ways. I’ll hear a screeching somewhere and think, oh I need to pray for Lysa.

    Thank you, for your faithfulness to Him.

    • Rhonda says

      Those are well spoken and true words! Lysa, you are wonderful, and you are human like the rest of us! We tend to think, oh, they have such and such going for them and such and such life, they don’t have a thing going on in their life to cause pain. That is so far from the truth, it stinks! We all have those great days and things are going just peachy and bam, that one phone call, email, word out of someones mouth can change our whole attitude and day in less than 30 seconds! Thanks to you and a loving God AND applying your teaching, I, like other women, am learning that that is EXACTLY what satan wants us to feel. Defeated, unworthy, hopeless, a failure and more. BUT GOD says and proves different to us daily (if we allow Him to).
      Thank you Ann and thank you Lysa!

    • Deanne says

      Anne, your comment blessed me. I found Lysa’s post very well done and right on. What an affirming way for you to respond to Lysa’s post. I also appreciate all of the things you noted about Lysa. Bless you both. I shared Lysa’s post with my daughter and find myself wanting to share your comment as well.

    • elizabeth says

      Anne, just wanted you to know how much your comment touched me! What encouraging and wise words.. Praying God blesses *you* today.. And, of course, you also, Lysa. I seem to be learning the same lesson this year.I am mentally repeating “a gentle word..” like it’s my new mantra. Reminding myself that every word I speak, everywhere I go, to anyone, at any time, has the potential to help heal OR to help hurt them for a lifetime. Oof! Anyway, thank you for sharing words that help heal.. And THE healing Word. Amen and amen =)

  2. says

    I used to stew over criticism for hours, if not days, thinking of what I *should* have said to *prove* the criticism wasn’t true. Then I realized that the person giving the criticism had probably forgotten about it very quickly, and the time spent stewing was just a waste of my time and energy.

    Thank you, Lysa, for your reminder to see if the criticism is helpful; I don’t like ANY criticism but there is some that IS helpful. And if not, I try to put it behind me ASAP.

  3. Gail says

    I am so sorry for the hurt you had, yet thankful for the thought for us all that when the hurts do come, we need to think if this is to hurt me or help me. I know many times for me there is some truth in the hurt, that is why it hurts me, and yet other times, it is just that the one who hurt me is hurting too, so I try to look beyond their hurt and see their need.
    Thanks so much for helping us all, even in your hurt. God bless you in your Ministry of Words!

  4. says

    It really resonated with me when you said, “staying calm is as much of a gift to myself as it is to my offender.” So true! Just like forgiveness helps us even more than the offender, being calm helps us more. After all, the offender has no idea if we are stewing in anger and unforgiveness. They just go their merry way feeling justified they got things off their chest …

    • Amy says

      Jerralea, I totally agree with you about Lysa’s statement about “staying calm is as much of a gift to myself as it is to my offender”. How refreshing to think that we are actually bringing healing to ourselves in moments when our flesh feels like retaliating if we just remain calm. When others see this I do believe that they will “see our good works and glorify their Father in Heaven”.

  5. says

    This message came through to my email just as I was about to respond to some unfair and uninformed criticism that was shared with a group when I wasn’t present. Of course I was going to throw back criticism for criticism and then walk away from the whole group. (I *was* just verbally flogged in public, afterall…) The timing of your post was far too coincidental to be anything less than God saying, “Wait a minute and think about this first.”

    I love when God speaks to me. Thank you for being His voice today.

  6. Jo says

    Lysa, Sorry for the hurtful message you received but the enemy is going to attack us anyway they can when we’re living for the Lord.!!! Prayers for you. I like your way of thinking. Kill em with Kindness…:)

  7. Wanda Baysden says

    What a word! I so needed this today. Was just about ready to throw in the towel! God’s word and right on time!!!

  8. M says

    Your timing is perfect and you must have read my email inbox today I think! Tried to respond calmly and see the other point of view. Sure hope I came off that way, that was my goal. My intentions were not as perceived to begin with so… . Also gave it up to God and asked friends to pray about it with me. No repsonse yet. Thank you so much for this post, you have no idea how much it helps! Printing it to read over and over and over again.

  9. says

    Lysa-this has hit so close to home. Friday afternoon at work ended with very strong criticism against me…mostly unjust. I cannot tell you how many hours of sleep I lost last night over this. I have been burying my soul in scripture but it still wears on a womans heart. I needed this reminder to respond in gentleness even though I wish to fight back and defend myself. God is in control….I am more than those words.

    Striving to Live out Loud~ Pamela

  10. Lacinda says

    I so second Anne!!!
    1st of all I don’t see how someone would ever have anything but nice things to so to or about you. You are awesome in so many ways. God has/does/will used/use you in so many ways. I know this because I have experienced it yet again today.
    Thank you for being faithfully obedient to Him.
    We love ya!!!!

  11. Charmel says

    Lysa, I just attended a local community performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The line that impacted me the most so applies to your teaching today. The antagonist in the story had just spat in the face of an attorney. Rather than retaliate, when the lawyer returned to the courtroom, he just sort of mumbled with a smirk on his face, “I sure wish Ewell didn’t chew tobacco.” His reaction was a powerful testimony to his integrity! And so is yours … thank you. :0)

  12. Colleen Gudge says

    Praying your day is filled with love & blessings, just as you have blessed us. I’m copying this blog to my notes as a reference during a “critical” time. Thanks!
    In Christ,

  13. Abby says

    Lysa, again i can revel in God’s love for us through your writing, i have to agree with what Anne says in her post and just imagine the words copied and pasted here in my post. I thanks God every day for your ministry and the ministry of Proverbs 31 and when i just pass by the daily devotions my day often quickly desolves into chaos. Thanks so much for the words you share, and thank you for caring enough to share truths that are not always easy to hear, but usually neccessary.
    I often think that when people are critical of others it is because of a void that is empty within them and so they lash out to bring others to their level of pain and suffering…i am not saying that i don’t respond harshly…because way too often I do…but your blog post today reminds me again of God’s grace and that i have to share that with everyone whose path I cross today…not just the people i like or love.
    Have a great day and I will endeavor to pray for you and the trials you have to endure,

  14. Babs says

    I’m my own worst critic. And I leave myself little “voicemails” like the one you received constantly. All day long. And I know it is not the truth. I have been tending lately to view myself through worldly eyes rather than Godly ones. What an example to set for my small children – ugh!
    I’m planning on today being different.
    This morning after some reading in the NT, I’ve finally found my “want to”.
    Thank you, Lysa, for continually pointing me to Jesus through your posts and your books. He has used you to finally get through to me. It’s nothing less than a miracle, because I am so prone to shutting out the truth and the light in favor of self-criticism that the opportunities for Him to penetrate my thick hide are like tiny little pinholes.
    I feel like He loves me so much that He hasn’t given up on me through all this time!
    Please pray for me that I would remain dependent to the truth and to continue to rely on Jesus for the strength I need to carry this “new” attitude throughout the whole day. Thanks!

  15. says

    You’re so mature. I am not. I learn from you 🙂

    I need a lot of help in this area….this whole criticism thing – when it comes from other people AND when the criticism comes from me. Both are brutal. Help us, Jesus.

    – Kate 🙂

  16. Heather P says

    Criticism always hurts the one having to take it. I am still learning how to deal with sharp criticism from people who do not understand. Jesus said to turn the other cheek. Not easy. Being a Mary Kay consultant, I have learned that our founder, Mary Kay Ash, said that there was no such thing as constructive criticism. I am learning to believe that because of the way it hurts whenever any criticism is encountered. Praying we all can learn to rest in the arms of our God when those angry darts come our way.

  17. Jennifer says

    Wow, Lysa. Your messages always slam me right in the forehead. (That’s a good thing!) I’m on my fourth week of living through an attack by a coworker. Trying to process WWJD, or Paul, or Job, or even Lysa! Sometimes, these roads that God leads me down are very difficult and painful, and yet it brings me closer to Him when I have to hold His hand constantly. It makes me spend more time in reflection, possible redirection. Today, I still don’t know what I should do. but I am listening and watching, and trying to be understanding, humble, forgiving, and calm. I need to be assertive in there somewhere, but that’s what I ‘m struggling with….how do I do all this and not be a doormat? O’ WIse Lysa, I could use some help with that one. This is hard work, this criticism road. Much love and gratitude for you, and praying for your ears!

  18. Brenda says

    Lysa – Just heard of something that may help the noise in your ear…it is called Quietus and is for tinnitus…maybe it will help you.

  19. Jo says

    This has been a tough year for me, full of critism with some backstabbing by people I thought I could trust. Know that your blog has been a source of encouragement and growth this year. God has spoken to me often through your posts. Thank you! And thank you for today’s word that will help me better handle these situations.

  20. says

    Wow, Lysa! It seems you are walking out the message of the book you are writing. Isn’t that the way it goes? I’ll be honest–I’m a tad nervous to read it because I know–TIMES FOR WANTING TO COME UNGLUED COMING! Yikes! BUT, the message is still the same and I will have your testimonies reflect on as I do now. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

  21. Marcie Joy Brown says

    I heard it said recently, “Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.”

    Thanks again Lysa, for showing us all how to rise above the assault.

    Oh, the power of our words…

    You are loved and valued!

  22. says

    Whenever I hear someone has hurt you, I just want to take them on. Yes, little quiet insecure me. I don’t know what the issue was over, but I know this: I have watched your life from the sidelines pretty consistently for at least 8 years. I have seen your heart for God lived openly for the world to see. I have read of your challenges and struggles. I have smiled and laughed along with you at floating mattresses and family antics. I have cried and wept. I have read of disappointments and failures. I have lifted you in prayer. I have been the recipient of your love, prayer and encouragement. We all make mistakes, but I also know of your deep love for the Lord and your passion to follow Him fully. So often when I lift your name in prayer, tears flow…not because I’m sad, but because my life has been blessed to have had the privilege of knowing a precious woman who seeks God intentionally and longs to walk in obedience to His Word. Honestly my friend, your integrity and love for the Lord invites me to draw closer to His heart. I wish I could find words to fully thank you for inspiring me to press into Jesus more. Through you, God continues to unsettle my heart, and move me from fading embers to burning fire. May His Spirit increase your devotion to the Lord and may you rest in the smile of His “well done”.
    Hugs, love and prayers,

  23. says

    “But I’m learning staying calm is as much of a gift to myself as it is to my offender.” Love how you put this, Lysa! It gives added incentive not to provide a knee-jerk reaction.

  24. Steph says

    Lysa, I relate all too well but another thing I have learned about criticism is to think through it. What I mean is ask myself, is there some truth in this? Did I say/do something to hurt her/him? How much of this do I own? Then I might have to walk around the house a bit before returning the call and tell the Lord that I choose to forgive so and so as He has forgiven me. I have to walk because I have to say it quite a few times until I have calmed down. When I don’t do this, I react in a not-so-Christ-like way and compound the issue. gulp mea culpa! I wish I could tell you that at 67, I have this whole thing dialed in and never “react” poorly but, sadly, I am still in training. I am praying for you, sweet sister, not about this only but your health issues as well.

  25. Sandra Wood says

    I took the time this afternoon to read about three of your columns and I just want to say that I have been encouraged by everyone of them! Your a true blessing just waiting for me. Thank you so much Lysa
    Sandy Wood

  26. Cheri says

    Just read this post now Lysa. Thank you for your honesty and God given insight. I need to sign in more often to keep focused on choosing Godly reactions instead of what I want to say or do!