A friend was telling me the other day about a priest who visited brothers in Venezuela. They were living in bad conditions. They were having only two meals a day. But this priest left there feeling “edified”.
I know the feeling. When you are with a person who breathes life into you and whose words resonate in you for days or months. I got to thinking that the people that are “edifying” to me probably don’t know they are or how much so, just like I am not sure who I “edify”. That edification speaks to the soul and is a still, small voice. The people that appreciate your example and feel some of Christ’s love in you are likely to do so anonymously. They are the “silent majority”, so to speak. Whereas the criticism you have to cut through just to shine some light somewhere is likely to be noisy and intense.
How to Deal with Criticism
Once I was upset and a little over-sensitive about pressure from an employer about not meeting deadlines. How could they? I didn’t feel appreciated enough. A wise priest told me (because yes, that was all I could whine about in the confessional): when you get criticized, try to look at it objectively and see if it has any truth to it. If it does, take it to heart and make a change. If not, discard it. I realized I was not meeting deadlines and had to objectively get better at that.
I am getting better at dealing with criticism, especially during my last pregnancy (my fourth) and now that I am getting ready to announce our school choice. It is crazy how much criticism you can get if you don’t follow the norm on how many children you have and how you choose to educate them. Everyone has an opinion. It is naturally a sensitive subject for parents.
I feel God is calling me to get a backbone. Be not afraid. Be not a people pleaser. This is something new to me.
I heard Bishop Barron talking about his last experience of being on Reddit. He explained that people were very nasty and attacked him openly, but he is very used to it. He used an expression of having to sift through the nastiness to get to some more thoughtful questions.
If you are truly humble, criticism will not take you down as easily because you are know you have faults and so does everyone else and your gifts come exclusively from God. If you are truly humble, you will know you are not better than anyone, but also no one is better than you.
Sister Lucia, a visionary of Fatima, explained in her book “Memories” that some people thought she was a living saint and asked her to bless them and others thought she was a witch. She was untouched by both views of her because “only God knew how she really was.”
The Worst Comes From Within
Another recent conclusion of mine is that insecurity, discouragement and thinking we are not good enough are feelings that never have any truth in them and are to be ignored. God knows exactly how weak and incapable we are and yet He still loves us with a grandiose, unique love and calls us to great, magnanimous things. It’s a paradox.
One of my favorite things I ever heard Jennifer Fulwiler say was in talking about a book in which the main character ponders suicide. He thinks he isn’t good enough and his life is not worth living. “Does that sound like the Holy Spirit speaking?” she says comically.
It is uncomfortable to admit we have wounds. It is uncomfortable to show our wounds even to God on a purely spiritual level. It is a million times more uncomfortable to show our wounds to other people, yet that is the way God made us (human) and that is the way we will find healing.
When I feel my life hasn’t amounted to anything and never will, I’ve never had any professional success and never will, I will never fit into a social group, other people are better at this or that, I am a terrible mother and my children are failing at x, y and z… these are all temptations to be completely discarded.
Just Do It
I was once in a Whatsapp group of women in which one woman posted a conversation about another woman in the group. It was a conversation criticizing this woman’s clothing line, a personal project she had, saying the clothes were ugly and overpriced and she would never have success. The woman who posted immediately deleted it and apologized, claiming she hadn’t written it. She had copied it from another group and meant to send it to her husband, asking for his advice. We all held our breaths, waiting to see what the insulted woman would answer. She responded with grace: she said she held no hard feelings and anyone who steps out in courage and starts any project is bound to get some criticism and only someone who has never tried anything wouldn’t know that.
It’s true. If you wait to write a book when you have a lot of time and can redo it again and again until you are perfectly satisfied with the end result and won’t leave any room for criticism… you will never write a book. God likes to keep us on our toes, with little resources and little time and a lot of imperfection. However, He calls us to give the little we have with great love and confidence, just like the widow who gave the only two coins she had in the world (Luke 21:1-4).