When I think about the things in life that fill my soul, my mind wanders to memories of happy times and beautiful moments like getting engaged or welcoming a new child into the family. I think about Christmas, time with family and close friends, and baking a favorite recipe.
On a deeper level, I think about God's promises and His faithfulness, precious times of prayer, miracles that I have seen in my own life, and the comfort I have felt from His presence in troubling times.
However, a great risk is posed to all of these soul-filling things when a certain enemy of our soul creeps in.
Criticism is an enemy of the soul. One word of criticism from someone else can cause a woman to abandon something that she loves to do, that was once life-giving, and cease to find enjoyment in it based on the sharp words of perhaps only one person.
Words impact how we see ourselves. How we see ourselves impacts our ability to live full and free.
What is even worse than the criticism we hear from others is the criticism we give ourselves-the lies we ingest and believe as if they were actually true. These lies challenge the legitimacy of who God made us to be and reduce us to feeling like a puddle of nothing; robbing us of true joy and freedom.
Criticism is a disease.
As it consistently resounds in our hearts and minds, we fall deeper and deeper into the accusatory lies.
You are not good enough.
You are a bad parent.
No one likes you.
You have no friends.
You will never get married.
You will never have children.
You need to do more.
You have gained weight.
You are fat.
You are ugly.
You don't count.
You aren't good at anything.
Everyone thinks she is better than you.
You don't measure up.
(I'm not sure I could ever finish writing this list.)
Like an uninvited guest, criticism weasels its way into our lives. It destroys us from the inside out and causes us to believe things about ourselves that were never true.
Words go deep and are not easily forgotten. I still remember my friend's dad telling me that I was too tall to ever get a boyfriend. What a thing to tell a 15 year old girl. I never forgot that. It planted a seed of fear into my heart that because of my size (I'm 5' 10") I might never find someone. Would any guy accept me for my height, something that I could never hope to change about myself?
Lately, as I have thought about the things in my life that have caused me to hold back, I realized that criticism has had a grip on my ability to move forward with certain things in my life. The untrue things I believed about myself formed a barrier around my soul causing me to hesitate to take brave steps in my life.
Determined to not let criticism be the cause of my dreams in life not coming true, I made a conscious decision to reject criticism in my life. Criticism is an uninvited guest from my thoughts and from the mirror. Its uninvited from my conversations and my speech.
And to replace this void of criticism in my life? Well, truth of course. You see as a believer in Christ, I claim to follow the teachings of the Bible, yet my own self image would suggest that I might be listening to someone else's version of the truth (the enemy's of course), which is completely contrary to who God has said I am.
"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
"So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free."
To me, these verses mean that I no longer live under the burden of the enemy's lies, I am set free from those lies by the truth of God's Word.
So, what is true?
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
~2 Corinthians 5:17
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
~ 1 Peter 2:9
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
~ Romans 8:1
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
~ Ephesians 2:10
"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."
~ 2 Timothy 1:7
"For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
~ 1 Corinthians 6:20
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 above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
~ Colossians 3:12-17
Now that I have officially uninvited criticism to this party I call life, and replaced the lies I believed with the truth of God's Word, I want to see this change in the women around me. I desire to see walls come down and swords fall to the ground as we learn to embrace each other with kindness and humility. And, while being truthful with one another, coat that truth in love and a sincere desire to help and guide, not to tear down, but rather taking the things we know to be absolutely true and using them to build a sisterhood of women who know who they are and can help other soul-weary women find rest from the burdens of criticism.
Dear sisters, will you stand with me and pronounce criticism an uninvited guest?
As you consider these things today in your quiet time, here is a song of praise that celebrates the freedom we have in Christ.