In my early years of being a mom, a family member harshly exclaimed that I was an overprotective mother. I will remember the moment forever — exactly where I was standing, the look on her face, the malice in her tone, and the pang in my heart. Not a mom herself, she implied that if I continued with my parenting style as she saw it, my children would become wimpy adults who sat around waiting for their meat to be cut. Her criticism couldn’t have been further from the truth, but her condemnation made its way into my head all the same.
Although unwanted and unwarranted, this little bit of critique became valuable. What she meant as hurt God made into something good. Even so, this negative criticism seemed to stick around like gum on a shoe, and it took me a while to work through.
For months, I questioned myself as to whether I was an overprotective mom. I resolved that I certainly was – but not in the way she suggested.
Resolution in this situation came with these three revelations:
I love my children so much that I am willing to make hard calls for their protection, both physically and emotionally.
If I’m going to err, I am much more comfortable erring on the side of overprotection than boundless freedom.
I will answer to God for my parenting decisions, not to any human and certainly not one whose goal is to hurt me.
Years later, I revisit this episode when I begin feeling threatened by hurtful criticism. This incident and my willingness to work through it offered me a foundation of checks and balances for future criticisms which would definitely come. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” If serving the Lord is the basis for whatever I do, people can throw their darts, but it’s my choice to listen or not.
Women, moms especially from my experience, get a wealth of criticism hurled our way. Because, generally speaking, we are tender and we love deeply, we long to better ourselves. This creates sticky situations when it comes to dealing with criticism. Some criticism is completely unjustified and unwarranted and has great power to wound. However, some criticism can be beneficial and should be considered — even if it hurts.
When is it okay to accept criticism?
When it holds truth that promotes growth.
Even if criticism is not sought out, even if it’s painful, it can be a catalyst for personal growth. Let God help you turn what someone meant for evil into something good.
When it comes from a trusted source.
When criticism comes from someone in your tribe, your “people,” it’s worth tuning in. This person should be someone who loves you and has your best interest in mind. Never give trolls in your life the time of day. They don’t know you; they are not your people.
When healthy boundaries are in place.
Healthy boundaries are crucial for digesting criticism. I could camp out on this point alone for an entire post. If you have trouble understanding what healthy boundaries would look like in your life, read any of the Boundaries books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. As a people pleaser by nature, I found these books revolutionary for my relationships and for how I process criticism. My only regret is I didn’t get to them sooner.
When you’re strong enough to receive it.
Be aware that in painful seasons or in times when you might be particularly tender, you will need to know the limitations of your vulnerability. Allow yourself the grace to protect your heart until you’re healed enough to work through criticism.
If you ask for it.
If you ask for critique, you simply must be willing to kindly accept it. Of course, it’s your choice as to how to process it, but if you ask for it, you’re going to need to be open to it. We see this play out with public figures every day. It may not be fair, but they have allowed themselves to be in the spotlight. Criticism comes in one hand and praise in the other. I’m fairly positive I will receive some criticism for this post, and I’m okay with that. I’ve learned how to handle it.
I hope I’m always wise enough to question myself when criticism comes. I hope I am responsive enough to make any necessary changes. I also hope I’m discerning enough to kindly reject criticism that is not true or can’t be trusted.
How do you handle criticism? Have you been in a situation where painful criticism which was meant for evil turned into something good?
Andrea Stunz has been a Christ-follower from the age of seven. She is the loyal wife to one, loving mom to three amazing adult children, grateful mother-in-law and ridiculously proud grandmother. A well-traveled Texan, having lived in Brazil, Asia, and the UK, Andrea finds joy in her family, grace in her friends, beauty in a story, purpose in the sunrise, wonder in her travels, and hope in Colossians 1:17. Andrea longs to encourage others by sharing stories because “a story worth living is a story worth sharing”. Find more from her at AndreaStunz.com.