No one likes criticism, or negative comments. In the last post, I gave you some thoughts on not being the kind of person who uses their tongue for negativity. Even if you took that advice, or already try to be a kind individual, you may still find that criticism and negativity come your way.
If you are like me, and I hope you are not, then you are very prone to take criticism and negativity to heart. One of my greatest personal battles is not digesting the negativity around me, or the criticisms leveled against me. I can literally waste an entire day, and ruin the fun I could be having with my friends and family by moping and fretting about what someone said to or about me.
I have a tendency to worry over such things like a dog with a bone: much to the frustration of my wife and the detriment of my children.
So, I am not an expert. I am still working it out. However, I do know some things that work and some things that don’t. Maybe it will help you to hear what I have found helpful to me.
1. Avoid Clichés and Quotes
Look, saying sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me has never actually helped anyone. Of course words hurt! I could argue that the wounds made by words not only can and do hurt me, but the hurt does not heal nearly as fast as a broken bone.
Proverbs 18:8 The words of a talebearer are as wounds,
and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
This is a long-term hurt. It doesn’t go away overnight. Some people carry these words around with them for a lifetime.
Here are some other dandy phrases that don’t help much.
- “If they are stabbing you in the back, then at least you know you are in front!”
- “Don’t pay any attention to the critics, Don’t even ignore them!”
- “Chew on criticism, but never swallow it.”
- “I know you are but what am I” (Okay, I haven’t actually said that since grade school.)
The truth is, these statements are intended to encourage, and these and others like them are often quoted by people who have been hurt by words, but want to give the impression that they are impervious to all verbal assault. They aren’t…or at least, they shouldn’t want to be.
2. Take time to feel the hurt.
Yes, let the pain come. Trying to hold off the pain may make it worse. When hurtful words are spoken, or criticism come our way, or our positive words are met with negativity; acknowledge it. Accept it. Feel it. However, don’t wallow in it.
Acknowledging the hurt will help you to know better how to respond, in the same way the recognizing that you are cut and bleeding will help you to address the issue and promote healing.
You may need to even let the person speaking know how your words are being received. Sometimes they are not aware of what they are doing.
3. Refocus Your Attention
The hardest part for me is this. If I do not keep my mind busy, then I tend to dwell on hurtful words or criticisms. If I am busy with a familiar activity, so that I can do it without thinking, I will start thinking about those negative or critical words. Not good.
I have found that I need to throw myself into something that is mentally demanding. Read a book. Tackle a job in the yard. Play a game with the kids. Anything to refocus your attention will help.
4. Resist the urge to seek sympathy.
We all love a shoulder to cry on. Social media has the biggest shoulder of all. Please, please, please resist the urge to post your vague, biased plea for sympathy on social media. This is not helpful. For these reasons.
- You cannot trust yourself to be objective, which will often lead us to coloring the story to make ourselves look like more of the victim. (You know we all do that.)
- The people reading your plea or rant have nothing to do with the situation and should not be involved.
- The situation will often be made worse, making forgiveness and reconciliation much more difficult.
- It is not the Biblical response.
5. Be ready to forgive and respond in a Biblical manner.
Hurtful words will come. Hanging on to them, and allowing bitterness to take root is not healthy, and it is not the response God gives to us in His Word.
What can we do? Here are some Biblical steps.
- Talk to God about it. Psalms 3:1-8
- Do something nice for the individual how was critical or mean. Matthew 5:44-45
- Remember that you have been guilty of the same thing. Ecc. 7:21-22
- Do not respond in kind. 1 Peter 2:21-23
Have I always done these things? Nope. I can tell you that I struggle the same as everyone else when criticism and negativity come my way. I can also tell you that when I have responded with the steps listed above, God does a work of healing in my heart, and does not allow the bitterness to take root.
Do you find these things difficult? Am I the only one? Of course I am not, but I hope that you will find these things thought-provoking and potentially helpful in facing the negativity that will come your way. I would love to hear your thoughts.