Criticism. We’ve all felt its sting. It indicates – to varying degrees – a lack of acceptance or approval of something we are, have said, or have done. In someone’s eyes we’ve not measured up. They’ve let us know, and it hurts.
Criticism comes in various forms – directly and verbally, gently or not so gently. Sometimes it comes more subtly through veiled comments and body language. Sometimes it finds its way to us through a third party, social media, or the grapevine. Sometimes that source is ourselves. And sometimes it is imagined. No matter what form it comes in or from where, it’s unpleasant and destructive.
What do we do when we find this ugly thing called “criticism” staring us in the face, sneering and condemning?
The philosopher Aristotle once said the only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. Well, there is another way. And that is to say everything, do everything, and be everything to please everyone else.
Impossible, you say?
Well, you’re absolutely right.
We’re left with only one option: Be who God created us to be, and ignore the criticism. Then, and only then, do we find freedom from criticism. Not because it ceases, but because it becomes irrelevant.
Yes, I know – that’s easier said than done. How do we do it?
Ann Voskamp has said, “The moment you stop caring what other people think — is most likely when you start doing what God wants.”
This is truth.
We need to know who God wants us to be, what He wants us to say, and what He wants us to do – and then do it. When we seek and do what He wants and has for us, He displaces the critics in the driver seats of our lives, and they are banished to the back of the bus. From there, their opinions have no effect on the direction our bus is going, and their voices become a distant murmur we ignore. Our Driver knows the way, and we trust Him. If He takes us down the road of singleness, for instance, it’s not that we’ve missed the right bus, it’s because that’s where He wants us to be for good reasons!
We humans get caught up with our measuring sticks and cookie cutters. We love to have standards by which we measure ourselves and each other. We imagine God has only one cookie cutter and has made us all the same, designing us all to dress alike, act alike, and live lives alike – with only minor variations.
The more we seek what He wants for us, though, the more we discover how differently He created us.
He has equipped me to write while He’s given you the ability to speak, fix cars, decorate cakes, make sales, teach students, milk cows, fly planes, tend to patients, build things, or look through microscopes.
He’s placed me in Virginia while you may be in Colorado, Australia, the South Pole, India, Idaho, England, Peru, or the Netherlands.
He brought me into this world in a hospital by the sea to live in a bustling tropical city, sealing my fate to be a city girl at heart who loves the tropics. While perhaps His birthplace for you was in a snow storm out in the boonies, making you feel most at home in the north and in wide open spaces.
I enjoy books, good coffee, long chats, RVing, an ocean view, and cats. While you may prefer dogs, hot tea, the mountains, hiking, solitude, and football.
Many of us have never married, while many others have. Some have been widowed or divorced.
Some of us are childless while others have only one child, others have a few, and still others have many. Some adopt, others foster, while others give birth.
None of these are right or wrong. It’s what and who God created us to like, do, and be. In all of them He has a purpose for us to fulfill. Probably multiple purposes. And these abilities, preferences, situations, and locations are the platforms and means by which He equips us to fulfill those purposes.
Consider these verses which indicate God has designed and created each person with a purpose:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well…. all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.” (Psalms 139:13-14, 16b)
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)
“He has saved us and called us with a holy calling … which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Timothy 1:9)
There are many means to discover His purpose for us. Most of it we discover as we live our lives, seeking Him. Sometimes a theme emerges, or we learn more and more what makes us tick. We discover these things through prayer, by observation, and by talking with those who know us well or who know how to ask the right questions to bring it to our awareness. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
God has used many men and women of understanding in my life to draw out the purposes He has made to be an integral part of me. One of those individuals most recently is someone I’ve known all my life, my cousin Shari Baer. God has gifted Shari with the ability to help others discover His purposes for them, and to help them know how to move forward into the abundant life He has for them as they utilize their gifts and live out their purpose.
Because she has been such a big help to me, and continues to be, we have partnered together to offer her coaching services here on Purposeful Singleness. If you’re unsure how to move forward in living out your purpose, need help making your critics take a seat in the back of the bus, or just need someone to talk out life matters with, be sure to check out our page describing her services.
One of the individuals who has taken advantage of Shari’s coaching here on Purposeful Singleness says this:
“Having been through several coaching sessions with Shari, I cannot recommend her enough! She helped me gain great insight into my God-given purpose and after every coaching session I felt invigorated to pursue my dreams. She not only really listens to you, but knows how to make you feel heard, and if you want, she prays with you.”
As we begin this new year, now is a great time to determine to be fully who God created you to be and to move forward into all that He has for you! And if you’re dealing with critics, it’s also the best way to make them take a back seat in your life.
I’d like to leave you with a favorite verse of mine as we begin this brand new year together:
Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)