Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety,~Proverbs 29:25
One of the reasons people struggle with insecurity is due to being surrounded by critical people. God doesn’t want us to be insecure. The problem comes when you are bombarded with real life experiences with people who are curt with their tongue, critical, and some even abusive. Here are some things I have learned along the way.
1. The way a person treats you or talks to you is a reflection of their heart.
It has nothing to do with you. You may be the target of the day or week, but the Bible says the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Matthew 12:34). Someone who is rude or cruel to you is most likely rude or cruel to other people. We give what we possess. If there is no love or compassion in a person, they can not give it to you.
2. Insecure people are easily offended and often the greatest offenders.
When we are insecure with who we are, we put other people down. When we love who we are, we build others up. I had an old acquaintance who was constantly making fun of other people, one day as a side experiment I begin to lovingly tease her about something (not mean, cruel, or embarrassing,… just teasing). She became extremely offended and stormed off. She had spent the entire night making fun of others, but she couldn’t handle it being dished back. I don’t recommend my little experiment. I was at the time very annoyed she was picking on people. The right response would have been to pull her aside or ignore her. I mind less people picking on me, than to see them picking on other people, especially for things they can’t help (ie. being bald, or their ethnicity, etc…).
3. The criticism hurts the most where you are the most insecure.
If we are secure in Christ and confident, then the criticism doesn’t bother us as much. I had a secretary who was very critical. She would call me bald (though I have long, thick hair) or she’d call me pale, old, or critique my clothing. None of her comments bothered me.
I have found the hardest criticism to get over has come from being involved in ministry, mainly because I am young and learning along the way. Leaders are expected to be perfect, and I am not. Only God is perfect. You expect (though may not be a good idea) for Christians to be loving, encouraging (like God), helpful, supportive, to speak the truth in love (for redemptive purposes), and to want to see you be the best for Jesus. I’ve found there are people in church who will hate you without cause, speak negative words over your life, gossip about you, criticize your every move, question your motives, feel free to give you their opinions on who you should be, how you should live, etc…it takes thick skin to be involved in ministry and even Christian community. If you are not firmly secure in Christ, you will be destroyed by people.
So what do you do with the critics when they come?
- Respond in love. It’s easy to retaliate and say, “Oh, you want to tell me about me. Let me tell you about you.” Don’t go there. Take the high road if you can. Sometimes you have to say to people, “You are being rude and disrespectful. When you can talk to me in an appropriate tone, then we can talk. ” Or ask them what the real problem is. Hurting people go around hurting other people. Though not easy, you don’t have to defend yourself. I had a lady from a church curse me out in a public restaurant, and I did not respond at all. I continued to walk in grace and love. That was hard, because I don’t like being called names and normally I would’ve defended myself. However, God is my defense. He’s yours too! Here’s a quote I love, “It’s not what people call you, it’s what you answer to that matters.” A gift is only yours if you take it. So let people keep their hatefulness. It doesn’t belong to you.
- Measure what they say against God’s word and character. God speaks life. Even His correction is to lead to redemption, restoration, and to help us. Is the word leading you to a closer walk with Jesus? Is the feedback something you’d imagine God giving you? Do you leave the situation feeling like there’s hope or do you feel hopeless?
- Take the criticism to God. God sees the deepest parts of our hearts. He’s the best person to talk to about the criticism or negative words. “God is this true of me? If so help me.” Whatever He says to throw in the garbage, pitch it!
I will say that there are constructive and helpful assessments that we should be open to. If you are headed off a cliff and someone yells, “Don’t jump, this isn’t a good decision,” it’s because they love you. Sometimes people get offended when they need corrected and someone genuinely tries to help them. We must be open to people providing feedback, but also take that feedback to God and measure it against His word. Feedback when it’s done right, helps us grow.
Don’t let people define who you are, God defines who you are. What He says about you is absolutely true! May we find our identity in Christ. It is the only secure identity and source of true confidence.