Being the wife of a pastor, I feel like criticism is an innate part of our journey. But if you are around humans in general criticism will be something that you and your families will face. Sometimes it will be criticism that God wants to use to humble and sanctify us and other times the criticism will be unjust and the sanctification comes from how we choose to walk through it and love people through it.
We have all had that dreaded email come into our inbox or read to us by our husband. Or we have known that gut twisting feeling when we hear through the grapevine that someone is unhappy or offended by us. I am not going to address how the Bible teaches us to approach a brother or sister in this blog, but I do want to discuss the emotional response in the heart of a woman to these situations in two simple points:
When criticism comes, the enemy will attack you with insecurity.
I remember one Sunday night early in our ministry, receiving an email from an unhappy church member that left me emotionally reeling. She was going through a very hard time in life and was channeling her anger full force at my husband. I had had a friendship with this wounded woman; we had shared meals, sonic drinks and laughs together. Immediately insecurity welled up in my heart. How could she actually believe this about my husband and what was she thinking about me? I remember the insecurity choking the oxygen out of my throat and at that moment ran to my favorite chair and flung the book of Psalms open. When I feel emotionally askew I tend to retreat into the Psalms, which I affectionately call the electric blanket of the Bible. While reading, I remember the Holy Spirit speaking very clearly in my heart, “Tish if you do not learn to conquer your insecurity it will conquer you.” Truth be told, I like to be liked…and at times in my life, especially at the beginning of ministry, it caused me lots of problems. Setting the opinions of man above God’s rule in our lives is a sure recipe for insecurity. Engaging in a journey that is seeking to find our confidence and identity in Christ alone is the only lasting healing and victory over insecurity.
When criticism comes, the enemy will attack you with the temptation of bitterness and resentment.
When criticism comes to our family we can set the emotional thermometer of the response. Our words and reactions hold great influence over our husbands and children. This influence is a powerful force either in the hands of Christ, or our flesh and the enemy. How we react is important. With this being said, I can honestly say that the only times in life that I have wholeheartedly believed myself capable of physical violence is when someone has wounded my husband or someone dear to me. The emotional reaction can be… um… quite strong. Women have an attack reflex when it comes to our families if we feel like they are being harmed. Now obviously we are not actually going to choke someone out with our infinity scarves, although we may feel like it. However, this attack reflex can translate into bitterness and resentment very quickly. Ultimately, we are not the defenders of our family, but Christ is. We must remember in these key moments that there is a very real war raging and it is not against flesh and blood, but against the enemy who desires to discourage and destroy our families, our churches, and relationships. People are not the ultimate problem, sin is. If we do not engage with a spiritual and kingdom mindedness we cannot respond with love, patience, and wisdom.
When we free ourselves from the entanglements of insecurity and bitterness we allow God to use us by his Spirit to minister in the situation according to godly discernment and wisdom. We can encourage our husbands and families not by berating someone else but by being women who have words of grace, truth, and reconciliation. We can lend strength because we will not be weakened by insecurity or resentment. Our mama bear attack reflex is a real thing but God does not desire people to be the “victim”, he desires the enemy and his schemes against our families, churches and communities to be defeated by our instinct to fight.
So, you beautiful women, fight on.
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. – Heb 12:15
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Prov 12:18
Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Phil 2:3-6
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hears, to which indeed you were called in one body. – Col 3:12-14