To escape criticism — do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.~Elbert Hubbard
Some people are natural pessimists. They seem to roll like quicksilver toward a gloomy view of the world. Then there are those that go one step further and criticize the half-empty glass. “It’s awful small.” “The water is too warm.” You’re smiling. You know the type?
Back in my younger days, I worked with elderly people in an assisted living facility as a certified nursing assistant. Edna was one of those ladies who, in a counter-intuitive way, wheedled herself into my heart. She was not only critical of life in general, but was also a hypochondriac. It made me smile to think that if she wasn’t being negative or criticizing something, I would have known without a doubt that she was really sick. Edna had this gravelly, nasally voice that reminded me of a cross between Marge Simpson and a bleating lamb. One evening at work, I was in the dining room helping serve supper. The kitchen staff had just given her a piece of apple pie. As I walked by, I heard Edna say in that nasally, odd sing-song voice, “There are too many apples in this pie.”
Criticism is part and parcel of interacting with other people, even little old ladies. Like our quote above, if you do much more than breathe, you can count on it. Of course, there are both positive and negative criticism. The former seeks to help, the other, to hurt. I happen to be over-sensitive to either one.
For example, my husband and I recently picked up part-time jobs at a cleaning company for a little extra cash. We liked the hours, the work was manageable, and it was always a good feeling to see the fruit of our labor. However, the job did have the drawback of receiving a lot of criticism. Small stuff, too. Things like, “You left a light on.” “You forgot to empty a waste basket.” The pettiness would astound me. Then, after about six months, I received a very critical report for one of our jobs. The client had quite a long list of complaints, and I was near tears because I was under the impression we were doing a fantastic job. I thought to myself, we work so hard and hardly ever hear anything good. I whined to the Lord about it, expecting his comfort. The answer I got was, how do you think I feel?
It made me think about all the good Jesus did and does now, yet all the criticism he has received throughout history, even from his own children! The Lord showed me through this experience that I have an inordinate need for praise from people that isn’t healthy. I’m also too defensive when it comes to legitimate criticism. I even gave up a natural talent I have for many years because of the critical feedback I received.
When Jesus walked this earth, most of the religious leaders were critical of him, and many of his own followers turned away. But this did not deter Jesus one bit. He stayed true to his Father, and did not fall into the trap of being a people-pleaser. John 7:18 says, “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”
That is what God wants me to do. It’s what he wants all of us to do: to seek his glory and his praise, not man’s. That means we will displease many people in our society when we stand up for what is true and do what is right. Jesus did not dance to the pipe his society played, and he did not cry on cue when they sang sad songs (Luke 7:31-35). He never let them dictate his behavior. He would go out of his way to do the unexpected in order to teach. No doubt he surprised many and turned them to God, which should be our motive, too.
PRAYER: Dear Father, forgive me for being a people-pleaser. Help me pursue something greater than chasing the empty praise of men. Forgive me for trying to use my natural talent for my own glory. Help me to seek your glory in all things, and may your praise satisfy me more than any person’s words. Thank you for your loving correction. Amen.