On Criticism (quote from my current read)

“It isn’t a thicker skin that I need. The words of the critic might sting, even if they are well-intended. The sting means I am alive and I am human. I wish I were stronger, tougher, more naturally resilient. But the ciritic voice is teaching me my humanity, and that is not a bad thing.

“There, in the clenched hand of the critic is a gift he may not realize he’s giving you, one you don’t recognize at first. But there it is, the gift of your own smallness, your own Yes, I am a mess. Yes, I want your approval and agreement. Yes, I want to be loved and admired. Yes, I want to be right. The critic’s words point out my insecurities- but in seeing those, he shows me myself.

“When I finally see myself, I can be laid open before God. In the opening, I see the root of this desire for approval is less about the critic and more about me. I showed up on the scene of the world crying and clenching and needing salvation. So did you. So did your critic. But it isn’t the critic’s fault I am desperate for worth and security and approval and permission.

“This is the shape I was born into, the curve of my flesh, the crookedness of my own heart, the twisted desire to be enough on my own and by myself.

“The critics don’t cause that mess. They just point it out.

“The pointing draws attention, and the attention can turn to denial and self-protection and defensiveness if I want it to. This is where most of us stop. This is where we meet a friend for coffee and they nod their head and affirm our sin– you are justified, our friends say.

“Or– it can transform into something else.

“What if my sin weighed more than my pain?

“The more I confess my frail humanity, the louder I hear the sound of another voice rising up in me, one that has some weight behind it. It is the voice of Hope, and Hope speaks with courage and a bit of a laugh. Because when those things we most fear will happen actually happen, we have a unique window of opportunity to take inventory of the battlefield and the aftermath. We look around, blink our eyes, listen to the quiet, and think to ourselves, I am not dead. That did not kill me after all. 

“How could it? If I say I’m a believer (and I am) and if I believe the Bible is true (and I do), then I have already died to that old life, the one that gropes and clings to the assurance and acceptance the world has to offer.

“Christ stretched out arms on the cross, wide open to the words and attacks of the critic, wide open to my sin-desire to be my own little god, wide open to receive the insults and the insulted, the sin of the offense and the sin of my defensiveness.

“He was stretched out so I could be free.

“Crooked is no longer my shape.

“And so if I have died with Christ and been raised to life in him, how can I die again at the hands of the critic? What have I to fear if death is no longer a risk?

“The critic carries gifts he never meant to bring, motivation he has no awareness of. The voice of the critic forces us to face our biggest fears and, in doing so, listen for the voice of God. If we dare to believe Christ’s dying and rising back up apply even in this, we can then be oddly, ironically, deliriously free.”

-Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways

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