“I just wished you loved Jesus more,” she said to me.
My heart dropped into my stomach and my jaw hit the floor. Of all of the things I expected to come out of her mouth, this thing hadn’t even made the top million. Worse, she was saying it in front of someone I deeply respected and admired.
Confusion, shame, heartbreak, shock and more flooded my senses. It felt a little like emotional vertigo as my thoughts spun while hot tears stung the corners of my eyes. Truly, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where this was coming from.
If I had been quick-witted I would have defended myself. Defended my honor! But I was so overcome with…I don’t even know….that all reason simply fled and I was left without words. All I could choke out was, “I disagree with you.”
I hastily ended the phone call and did what any rational, well-adjusted woman would do. I went to bed and cried for two straight hours. My mind raced as I tried to figure out where the criticism had come from and why it had been delivered just so. I was mortally wounded. I never even saw the shot coming.
Weeks later I would get an apology note. Not for what was said but, rather, how it was said. I had plenty of time at that point to consider the situation and I was more than prepared to do the defending I wish I had done in the moment. I wrote back several drafts of emails that explained my thoughts on the matter and I’ll admit, contained some passive-aggressive retaliation.
What I hope you understand, dear reader is that I truly did disagree with her assessment of me and while her vocal slap knocked me down, I was prepared to get up, dust myself off and come back swinging. She was wrong about me. I had a deep love for Jesus and I could provide all kinds of evidence to that effect.
But no matter how many versions of the reply I tried, I simply could never hit the send button. I couldn’t escape the nagging thought that I was not to respond. I was to simply show the grace I desperately wish I had received.
Matthew 5:38-39 was sticking in my head. To be clear, I had to go look up the correct address but the verse was coming into my mind like a finely tuned radio.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for and eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek,
turn to them the other cheek also.”
Please know that I am not considering my critic as evil. In fact, I have great respect for her and what she does. I simply believe that she got this one thing wrong. To be honest, it hurt like hell. But the more I wanted to defend myself, the louder the voice became in my mind until I stopped to consider it fully.
What if I wasn’t supposed to defend myself but instead turn and give her the other cheek? What would that mean? That would mean I wouldn’t argue with her or prove her wrong. I would simply say okay and walk away.
It came down to a matter of faith, really. Did I trust God to fight this battle for me? Was I prepared to let the matter go and believe that somehow, some way it would be made right? Did I believe God?
I wonder how many women have felt the pain of harsh criticism. Whether it is in your face or much more subtle, having anyone tell you that what you are doing, what you have done or who you are isn’t good enough is devastating. So how do we endure this and recover?
For me, I decided that my best course of action was to delete all of the emails I had written and simply write back one simple message. Water under the bridge.
Honestly, I can be pretty feisty so it was a tough call for me but I believe it was a fruit of the spirit to respond the way I did. I believe God wanted me to turn the other cheek instead of defending myself. I believe He claimed that battle for Himself. It’s just not my battle to fight this time. Rather, the battle I am to focus on is more about learning to turn that cheek against the voices of all critics, including my own.
It would be nice if I could control other people’s opinions of me but until that day comes (never) I plan to trust God as much as possible to defend me when needed. Regardless of whether or not I ever know the outcome of the fight. I had one door closed that day and I may never fully understand what provoked the exchange but I’m comfortable in the knowledge that I don’t need to understand. I just need to trust the one who promised He would handle it. To Him be the glory.
I would love to hear any other Godly methods you have used when facing harsh criticism. Share below!