There will always be people who will not agree with our approach in life, who will make argument with the words we share, or who vocally express their dislike of a piece of art we create. But criticism, when it is meant to help, can be used to grow and stretch us into who God purposed us to be. Bad criticism, although it makes me want to turn and run for the hills, grows and stretches us even more. God’s desire is that we would open our eyes and see criticism in a new light.
The one with the daunting stare, the one who points out our weaknesses and shows us where we could do better, that critic can paralyze us with fear so overwhelming that we do not even consider moving toward our goal. The sting of the critic reminds me that I am living and that I am human.
When I am forced to look at myself, it causes me to lay myself bare before a living and loving God. It’s then that I realize that my deep desire for approval is not really about the critic at all, but it’s all about me. In reality, it’s not my critics that cause the mess, but they only point it out, forcing me to take a long, hard look at it.
And what about the one who speaks words, writes books, paints pictures and does life right alongside of you? I am the first to admit that I am both inspired and disheartened when I read the words of others. Their words, so profound, cause an ache in my heart — She says it so beautifully. I could never write like her. The words just flow from her heart. Why can’t I express my heart so beautifully? Is not my art beautiful too? This big world of writing and sharing words often leaves me feeling empty, not good enough and less than. And before I know it, I’ve become paralyzed by unrealistic fear that leaves me unable to breath let alone move. The ugly truth of my life is that I long to be accepted and valued by others apart from God.
I’ve experienced this just recently. I’ve been on a writing break, with another book sitting in draft and unable to move forward. I have allowed the success of others to put a fear of failure inside my own heart because I don’t feel good enough. But God, in is loving and gracious way, has slowly peeled off layers of hurt and pain concerning my own art, that reading the words of others was no longer encouraging me, but bringing me down. Words that were meant to offer hope and life brought more death, as God called me once again to sink. [Tweet “Only in His presence am I free from the fear of failure and able to rest in His love.”] As the beloved of God, I needed to stop and just be loved.
There really is enough words to go around. She may have already said it, but we can say it too because we will say it differently. And most likely, if everyone is saying or writing about the same thing, then God is saying something. So write it, join her, support her. We exert less energy being one another’s cheerleaders than we would fretting over book contracts and making art to please someone else.
How will you respond to the voice of the critic today, both the internal and external critic? How is God opening your eyes to see criticism differently?