We’ve got to be careful to guard our hearts. Many of us give far too much power to others and care far too much about what other people think about us. We have to remember to not let compliments go to our heads, or allow criticism to stick to our hearts. Look over Psalm 139:13-15 and write down some things that are wonderfully unique about you. What are some things that you love about yourself? Write those down and thank God for making you wonderfully unique!
We all deal with criticism and have an opportunity to shift the conversation from nitpicking to encouragement and love. Romans 14:10-13 tells us to no longer criticize one another. Let’s be the first to forgive, look for the good in others, and believe the best of people around us. Did you do any Christmas shopping over the holiday weekend? Was there a place that you went to that you really enjoyed? Hop on Yelp! or Google and leave a positive review for those places/items! Take time out to pray for local shop owners and retail workers that may be enduring high-tension and criticism at work.
When we react hastily to criticism, we can often cause unnecessary tension in relationships. This is why it is better to take a step back, take a deep breath to recenter, and respond carefully. Just like Gideon in Judges 8:1-2, we need to be able to give a clear, rational response. Pray through James 1:19 and be mindful today to pause and respond carefully to criticism you may face. Draw a ‘PAUSE’ symbol on a post-it-note (or on your hand), and next to it a ‘PLUS’ symbol, and next to that the word PRAY. Let it serve as a reminder for you in all of your interactions to pause and pray before responding.
There are people that love you who may have brought up something recently about something you need to change in your habits or attitude. The good news is that you can learn from anyone if you have the heart to grow and receive. Just like a sick person who throws away their medicine, Proverbs 15:32 warns us that, “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.” Take note of some recent constructive criticism you may have heard lately and ask the Lord to help you process it properly and work to become more like Him in light of it.
Proverbs 19:11 offers insight to help us embrace more patience when faced with critical people. We are encouraged to overlook offense—to move beyond it and forgive in real time. Is there any criticism that you are holding onto—maybe even allowing it to be a divider between you and the person who said it? Take time out today to meditate on Ephesians 4:32 and make a move to respond to that person in kindness. Pray for them and forgive them for the offense. Offer encouragement or a kind word as you interact with them or see a post on their social feed. Ask God to keep your heart saturated in tender love and forgiveness, and to protect you from bitterness, gossip, or slight towards critical people.
TALK IT OVER
- What was the highlight of your Thanksgiving holiday?
- Did you do any Black Friday shopping? Why/Why not?
- Have you ever read a review of something online and felt differently after seeing/buying it?
- How do you normally handle interactions with critical people?
- Which of the 4 thoughts toward criticism was most eye-opening to you? (Don’t respond // Respond more carefully // Listen and make a change // Work to guard your heart)
- Do you feel like you take every critical word to heart or do you easily filter out to store the truth?
- How often do you pray for those who criticize you? Is it easy to do or do you really have to work hard to do that?
- Let’s read over Romans 14:10-13 together. What does that speak to you personally?
- What are some of the best ways you can guard your heart?
- How can we support one another as a group to help each of us believe the best in others?