Don’t Let Criticism Define You

I was recently talking to a friend of mine.  She had just heard, second-hand, some pretty mean (and generally untrue) things about herself!

On the surface, the stuff sounded really harsh!  I felt such compassion for her!

Her immediate reaction was to defend the criticism with her version of the truth.

I listened as she explained to me all the unkind things she had heard about herself.

When she called me, she was MAD!  She called them all LIES!  TOTAL LIES!

As she started to calm down, she recounted each lie and then told me how some of those lies might have come about.

The more she talked, the more we both realized that there actually was a little bit of truth in each thing she’d heard.

The problem was that the little bit of truth had been heavily embellished with “always” and “never” statements.  And each half-truth had its own untold back story.

As she found a tiny bit more truth in each statement that she had initially defended vigorously, and as the anger started to melt even more, it gave way to self-doubt.  She started to doubt herself in big ways.  And she started to say things, kind of to convince both of us, like “I’m NOT a bad mother!” and “I’m NOT a bad wife”!

She was VERY concerned about what others thought of her who may have heard the same lies.

She felt like she had this stamp on her forehead defining her as a bad mother and a bad wife even though much of what was said was only half of the story, at best.

I found something come out of my mouth at that moment that I must have gotten from a pastor or some speaker somewhere because I don’t recall ever saying it or thinking it myself – but I liked it!

I said, “Friend, don’t let this define you.  Let it refine you.”

I told her she was right.  She is NOT a bad mother NOR a bad wife.  And that she definitely had every right to be hurt and angry.  For a time.

BUT, I also felt that she had been blessed with the information!  It was information that had never been shared with her directly and that she might have NEVER known!  And it was VALUABLE information despite the harsh and over-exaggerated way that it had been delivered to her.

The fact was that this was someone else’s PERCEPTION.  And while the facts may not have been totally true from a “never” and “always” and “you-don’t-have-the-whole-picture” standpoint , perceptions are very true to the person perceiving them!

I told her that she would be missing a HUGE opportunity if she didn’t allow SOME of what was said to REFINE her!

By the end of the conversation, she was still angry.

But she saw that there was definitely a reason that God had brought this information to her – and that she had to look at it as an opportunity to grow.

I had a controlling person once get in to a heated argument with me about how controlling I am!  It was a friend.  And she was mad at me for suggesting that a table could be put “here” instead of “there” at a school outreach function.

She said some really ugly words to me like “nobody likes you” and “you need to stop telling people what to do or they are going to quit” (I was in a VOLUNTEER leadership position at a Christian School – you know the kind right? :)).  She even brought up a personal thing I was dealing with and said I was getting “too involved” there too.

Man, the words stung!  I was really, really mad at her at first.

Then I calmed down and sent her an apology.  For my part.

But I realized a lot of things from that interaction.   At that point in my walk, thank God,  I was mature enough to know that I had to get some lesson from the interaction.

I wasn’t going to consider myself a “failure” and quit my “job” (tempting as it was :)) or define myself as a “bad leader” because I suggested a table be moved at an outreach function.

So, once the pain subsided and the tears dried up, this is what I walked away with:

First is that I struggle with control 🙂  There, I’ve said it.  Considering that I used to be a “Corporate Controller” for about 10 years, I should have already known that – I came by it rather naturally – but this woman cemented the awareness part for me!  In corporate america or when you’re trying to lead the PTA, it has its definite pluses.  In most other relationships, it can be a problem!

Not long after that interaction, I realized that control was not only eroding my relationship with God, but it was eroding my most important earthly relationship – the one with my husband.  So maybe I owe this woman more than an apology – maybe I owe her a thank you for the wake up call!

Second is that others tend to criticize, in others,  the very things that they don’t like about themselves.   So I started to be more aware of that character trait in myself – because I’m the only one I have any control over (hmmm… there’s that word again).

Third is that you need to set boundaries in your life around certain people.  It’s one thing to turn the other cheek.  It’s quite another thing to keep making your face available for the smackings.

Lastly, hurt people hurt people.  It took me longest to learn this last one.  And I think it’s most of what my friend above was experiencing too.  Sometimes people have to make you feel small to make themselves feel bigger because they feel so small to begin with.  I’ve learned to have a healthy compassion for people who are struggling with this instead of spending all of my time whining about the wounds that they’ve inflicted on me from their place of brokenness.

The next time you hear something about yourself that has you immediately in defense or offense mode, take a step back and remember that you are either experiencing a test or a blessing and there is a reason why God is allowing you to walk through the process.

It’s to refine you.  To make you more like Him.

Don’t let criticism define you.  Despite how you’re feeling at the moment of delivery, it is only God’s opinion of you that matters.  And he thinks you’re really awesome!!

I follow the blog  If you want to read more about this topic as it relates to marriage, she has a great post here about accepting constructive criticism from our husbands!

Merrie Beth

Breaking the Disrespect Addiction


August 6, 1996, I had one of those “defining moments”.  I decided that I just couldn’t smoke another cigarette.

Oh, I still WANTED one.  Badly.  But I was done being a smoker. Mostly, I was sick of how it made me feel.  Not at the moment I was smoking the cigarette – but the next day.

The internet was really just catching on then (with me anyway) and I was staying up late at night smoking one cigarette after another while on the computer.  Every morning, I’d wake up with an ashtray full of cigarettes and a feeling like, well, like I had smoked an ashtray full of cigarettes!  And so I decided I’d had enough.


People start smoking for lots of reasons.  To be cool.  To be rebellious.  Because their parents or grandparents did and it was just the “norm”.

But once you’re hooked, the destruction begins.  And it’s so hard to stop!

Well, on October 15, 2010, I had another “defining moment”.  That was the day that I realized what a disrespectful, dishonoring, critical wife I was.  And that was the day I decided that I just couldn’t be that wife anymore.


I was done being disrespectful.  I was sick of how it made me feel.  Not at the moment I was spewing my poison – but later – afterwards.

And I was sick of what it was doing to my marriage.

When I realized what a CANCER my habit of disrespect had been to my marriage over the years, I was DONE.

Wives start being disrespectful for lots of reasons.

Some of it just has to do with personality (aggressive versus passive, uptight versus easy-going).

A lot of it has to do with “the fall”.  In the garden after Adam and Eve ate the apple, God said (to the woman) ” Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”.   This takes the form of woman’s resistance to headship of the man (control by the woman/resistance of man’s leadership) or her co-dependency on the man (idolatry – relying on her husband to meet all of her emotional needs).

Some women were actually taught disrespect.  Not on purpose.  But by watching their disrespectful mothers.

A lot of disrespect is a natural (but unGodly) reaction to feeling unloved.

And a lot has to do with feminism and the distorted view it has given us of “equality”.  It’s like it started this ridiculous competition in marriage that was really just meant for the workplace – equal pay for equal work.

It’s all sin.

Whatever the reasons are why we become disrespectful, the problem is that it can be as addictive as the nicotine in a cigarette.  And although, on some level, we know that it STINKS, we find ourselves taking a drag once again and often feel powerless to stop it!

The only way you CAN stop is with God’s help.

The first thing to pray for is awareness of  what you are doing now that IS disrespectful.  Being aware is like 90% of the battle (not a researched statistic :)).

Pray Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart!    Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

I highly recommend the books Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs and For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhaun.

But the book that had the biggest impact on me in the area of disrespect was The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle.  I wish so badly that it was a Christian book but it isn’t.  The closest Christian book to this one is The Politically Incorrect Wife by Connie Grigsby and Nancy Cobb.

But if you have control issues – which comes out as BUCKETS of disrespect to a man – and you only have time to read one book, read The Surrendered Wife.

As you read these books, you will see this big, huge lightbulb go off over your head and you will WANT to stop.  Pray for God to give you the strength to stop the disrespect and the wisdom and courage to start being respectful.

You are going to be amazed at what respect does for a marriage!

I’m happy to report that I have never picked up another cigarette since quitting over 17 years ago.

The respect thing, while HUGELY improved,  is a work in progress and will be until “death do we part”.  But as Joyce Meyer says, “I may not be where I’m supposed to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”

When I slip up, I recognize it the minute I’m doing it, apologize, brush off the ashes and try again.

Thank God we serve a God of second (and third and fourth…) chances!

Merrie Beth