Recently, a group of prayerful ladies got together… it’s always a wonderful experience to be part of “sisterhoods.” As we went around the room, reflecting on some conversation cards, one younger woman spoke up and talked about how certain people in her life had a lot of opinions about what she should be doing and what she shouldn’t be doing with her life. The more she bore her soul, and the more the tears fell from her face, the word “rejection” darted across my brain and out my mouth.
Many of us in the room nodded in empathy as we had, in one way or another, experienced her pain. Whether it occurred in school, while dating, at work or even among family, we all had experienced (or currently were still experiencing) the sting of rejection.
As we move from teenager to young adult, people have a hard time seeing us as competent, older individuals. Adults in our lives can sometimes have opinions about simple life decisions we face like what car to buy or where to live to bigger decisions like when to get married or when to have children.
Friends surround us at different life stages, and we aren’t sure if we are missing something because we feel called to something different. They start their families sooner, or later. They are sacrificing everything to climb the corporate ladder and we don’t feel that call, or vise versa. Some put their lives on hold to travel the world, and others feel called to stay back and do life differently.
When people don’t rally around us in our life decisions, it can sometimes feel like rejection. For some personalities, especially in those young adult years, we need assurance that we aren’t screwing anything up so an “atta girl” is so desired but not often received. …and criticism and judgement IS rejection.
In reflecting on my friend crying in pain, it has me wondering if I’ve ever caused that kind of hurt to someone through criticism or rejection.
I will admit that years back (prior to daily morning bible studies, counseling, spiritual friendships and a Christ-centered life) it came a lot easier to find fault with others, for a variety of reasons. Unmet expectations. Low self-esteem. Frustrations. Boundry-less relationships. I had a whole lot of a critical spirit.
Some people will argue that being critical is a good thing. As a matter of fact, they say that our world today needs to be more critical in decision making and ciphering right from wrong. I would agree and quote Churchill:
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
But what Churchill is talking about is “constructive criticism.” He’s talking about sitting someone down that you love and care for and offer some advice to help build them up, not tear them down. … and words spoken behind the backs of people are NEVER for building up.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29
For young adults, like my friend, I think people “offer” unsolicited advice or opinions about life choices. Looking at that quote from Churchill, is choosing to travel the world unhealthy? Is choosing to wait to have children unhealthy?
AND people are not dumb. They know the difference between what’s constructive criticism and what’s coming from a critical spirit. I would expect constructive criticism is dealt with by having a calm sit down, while experiencing love and compassion during the entire conversation… the kind of conversations I try to have when my kids mess up.
But with a critical spirit, we find fault at other people’s life choices because they seem happier or smarter or wealthier. We are critical (JUDGMENTAL) because we want to prove that we have those things and maybe even that they do not or simply cannot achieve those things with their means. OR they aren’t smart enough to achieve those things and we know a better way, the only right way.
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. … Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. – Romans 14:10 & 13
I think, too, when adult children do things that their parents don’t understand it can evoke some feelings within the parents. When I choose to do something different with my children than what my parents did with me sometimes I’m met with some criticism, but I understand that by me doing something differently is me “rejecting” how I was parented in some fashion. I understand this and I don’t receive the criticism, and a healthy conversation follows.
When I started my career I had a critical attitude of women who had babies right out of the gate. I didn’t understand this. How could they afford it? What were they going to do about work? The fact is since I didn’t understand that decision it was easy to just be judgmental about it.
While in my career, a colleague of mine kept shooting straight up the corporate ladder. Quickly. Rather than take some tips from him or leave the company I was at to make those kinds of lateral moves I always had a very critical attitude about him and his life. My criticism was born out of jealousy.
In my closest relationships, I dealt with many unmet expectations. Rather than rid myself of the expectations, I became critical of the individuals and how they continued to disappoint me.
We come by having a critical spirit naturally. Being critical soothes jealousy and hurt like a balm. The truth is, like cheap balm, it won’t last long. The only true relief from being judgmental is having a changed heart. Because, the fact is, that we cannot attain or maintain a good relationship with God if we have a critical spirit.
If I am truly connecting to Jesus, He’s going to reveal to me where I’m messing up. He’s going to get real. It is impossible to pray to God about my relationship problems and not have my own transgressions revealed. My conscience is going to be heavy on me if I know I’ve done something wrong, same as it did when I was a teenager and made dumb decisions.
Just like in all things in life, it’s a lot easier to do maintenance than damage control. Maintenance is staying in the word, praying, being content, following my callings and humbling myself when I know I’ve done wrong (with confession, repentance and reconciliation if possible)… doing things that I know pleases God. In doing these things, I will keep myself out of trouble otherwise I will become of this world again and be a victim to what the world wants me to be.
Also, and more importantly, I go back to the word “love.”
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
If we are to love one another, the way Jesus calls us to, we need to rid ourselves of our critical spirit. It is impossible to love someone, the kind of love described here in Corinthians, and harbor bad feelings about that same person or believe them to be incompetent in life’s decisions.
In my sweet friend’s case, she’s definitely NOT feeling love from people who offer their opinions of her life. We need to understand when our opinions are unsolicited and unwarranted. We need to understand when our concern for other people’s way of life becomes criticism. We also need to understand that our lack of support or acceptance of other people’s decisions is actually rejection.
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
Lastly, ladies, we have younger women and little girls looking up to us. It seems weird, considering I often still feel like I’m 25 (despite the amount of gray hairs I notice in the mirror). We need to take this job a bit more seriously and watch our tongues. Our daughters learn by example… same as I would pick up cigarettes lying around the house and pretend to smoke them, so too do our girls learn about critical spirits by listening to our words.
I normally don’t quote “The Message” version of the bible, but I did like this and think it may be a bit more palatable for my audience:
Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. – Titus