Sunday, September 10, 2017

Getting Rid of Self-Criticism

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent– (Eleanor Roosevelt).

Many women are very critical of themselves. This constant critical introspection can cause all kinds of problems in their lives. Obviously, there are many reasons for their constant self-criticism, but the first reason unfortunately often comes from having had a parent who constantly mentioned the negatives that he or she saw in their child rather than focusing on the positives. These negative criticisms can be constant verbal criticisms or they can be the subtler criticisms of facial expressions and body language. But whatever kind they are they are, all criticisms given during the formative years can do great damage.

 Even overt snide remarks, or the subtle rolling of the eyes can be criticisms that a child will easily pick up on. In fact, young children can often pick up on sarcasm and other negative statements that adults may not think they understand; all the while understanding that those words, sarcasms, and those hateful looks were really said or made to hurt rather than to help. This type of constant criticism can eventually lead to an inferiority complex, shyness, or even fear of others. These criticisms can also lead to low self-esteem. To make matters worse, when the child enters school, other kids can quickly pick up on the child’s insecurity or poor view of themselves, and then they, too, will often jump on the bandwagon and continue the criticism, which can easily turn into bullying from others.

Most criticized and bullied people survive, but not without some strongholds that they can’t seem to let go. For, when this browbeaten child finally becomes an adult, it sometimes isn’t easy for her to put away or forget about all those negative statements, sarcasm, and distaining looks that she received over the years. Now, she will often criticize herself because she thinks that is the thing to do. This is because she has been trained to look at herself in a critical way. So, even when others may not continue the criticism, the woman may continue to look at everything she does with a critical eye. The result is that in an attempt to overcome the negatives that she has faced and heard all her life, some women may take on the role of critiquing themselves, or they may even become critical toward others.

Certainly, a born-again Christian woman needs to let go of self-criticism and she needs to quit being critical of others. But, it isn’t always easy to overcome self-criticism and criticism of others without the help of Christian mentor that can help explain to the woman that Christ loves her. This is where the counseling type of Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM) can be of great help to the woman. Furthermore, the counseling type of ARCM can be especially important to a new Christian who needs someone to walk them through what being a Christian means.  

Obviously, self-criticism is extremely harmful in many ways, but one of the most detrimental things that self-criticism does is to undermine what God wants for the life of that woman. Remember, that God loves each of His children, and He wants what is best for each of us. He doesn’t want any woman to feel inferior or critical of herself. Moreover, God made each one of us with special gifts and talents that can be used to not only be the best person that we can be, but so that we can also use those gifts, talents, knowledge and wisdom to help other women become all that they can be for the Lord, themselves, and their family. Furthermore, God created each person to be a special envoy for the LORD and to glorify Him within their life. Indeed, it is important to understand that God loves us and wants us to love Him back. But it is hard to love God with all your heart when you are focused on criticizing yourself or others. That is why it is so important to help another woman focus on loving others and loving God. A good active relational Christian mentor who is grounded in the Word of God and who has a great deal of love for others in her heart can be just the person to help the woman who is self-critical.

God does not want us to be so critical of ourselves that we cannot live for Him or do the work of helping others. Yes, God wants us to learn from our mistakes and to try not to make those mistakes again, but He does not want us to wallow in self-criticism or self-pity either. Those two things keep us from being able to focus on servanthood and on loving others. In fact, God sent His Son into the world to forgive us of our sins and in believing on Him as the risen Son of God to then receive Salvation and righteousness. So, if you are an authentic “born-again” Christian your sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. Moreover, you no longer have to be self-critical, but instead remember to always turn to Christ to ask Him to help you to not focus on your mistakes, but to correct those mistakes if possible and then continue living for Him with all your heart.

We all have room for improvement even after we have accepted Christ as our Savior. Yes, our sins have been forgiven, but we can still miss the mark at times. However, instead of being critical about ourselves and getting into a depression or beating up on ourselves, we need to evaluate the situation. Can we see where we went wrong? Is it possible to correct the mistake? If not, can we ask for forgiveness, if needed? Can we start again? Can we learn from our mistake and then help others to not make the same mistake? Answering these questions and others is called evaluation, i.e., when we look closely at our motives, for ways to improve or for ways to correct negative situations, look at how to not make that same mistake again, and then to look at how we can grow from what we have learned from our mistake. As you can see, there is definitely a big difference between self-evaluation and self-criticism. Evaluation is a method of improving ourselves without being self-critical.

Evaluation vs. Self-Criticism

Yes, there is always room for improvement in our lives. But in order to find ways to improve ourselves, we must first learn to evaluate the situations we have found our self in or learn to evaluate the mistakes that we have made to see if there are ways to avoid making those mistakes again. Certainly, we need to look at “missing the mark” through eyes that can look for positive changes rather than through self-critical eyes. Only when we have positively evaluated the situation or the mistake can we make the needed positive adjustments and then find ways to not make those mistakes again.

There is definitely a difference between evaluation and self-criticism. Evaluation is supposed to be constructive, i.e. leading to improvement or leading to a more positive outcome or response, whereas self-criticism can be very destructive. Self-criticism tears a person down. It leads to even more hurt when the self-criticism continues. However, when we evaluate our lives, looking for ways that we can improve or become more helpful and servant-oriented Christians, we take the emphasis off ourselves and put it on living for the Lord. The result is positive and growth-related responses that not only encourage our own emotions, growth, and wisdom but which can then lead to responses that encourage other women as well. But when we criticize our lives, only negative, hurtful, and harmful responses are the result. That is because, self-criticism focuses only on things that probably lead to the self-promoting lies of hurt and which ultimately encourage low self-esteem.

Unfortunately, much of the self-talk that we do to ourselves is actually the repetition of lies that the devil wants us to believe. You see, the devil wants to destroy not only the hearts of all Christians but he wants our souls as well. The devil cannot have our souls, but he can do everything in his power to promote our own self-loathing. If he can keep us from focusing on Christ and the Father, then the devil has had a good day. He does this by encouraging us to focus on ourselves and our own problems. So, the devil plants lies in our minds and then encourages us to not only believe them, but to make those lies into strongholds within our hearts. These strongholds then bind Christians up into a type of bondage that keeps them from living totally for the Lord. Obviously, the devil can’t take the soul of a true born-again Christian, but the devil wants to make that soul as miserable as possible. For when we are miserable and not turning to Christ in faith and trust, we do not express the love of Christ to the rest of the world. This is what the devil wants; he does not want Christians to be advocates for Christ or to help other people come to know Christ as their Savior. So, if the devil can get Christians to focus on themselves instead of on Christ and living the Christian life, he can eliminate one more potential Christian mentor and one more person who would have shared the Gospel Message with another.

Obviously, when we are focused on ourselves, we are not focused on Christ. Nor does self-criticism encourage us to think of other people who may need help or support. However, Christians should be looking at others and finding ways to help those that need help. That is why all Christians should get in the habit of evaluating their lives in the light of what Christ would want us to do rather than for looking for ways to put ourselves down.

Christians women can live fulfilled and productive lives for Christ when they get in the habit of evaluating their lives through the eyes of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. How would Jesus want us to live? What can I do to share God’s love and Salvation with others? These type of questions and evaluation leads to productive and happy lives that are focused on Christ and doing for others instead of thinking only of themselves and what they may or may not have done wrong. In fact, we can build ourselves up and can build up other women by not only evaluating our own lives, but by meditating on God’s Word and then sharing God’s Word with others.

Meditating on the Word of God

We have all heard of the word “meditating”. However, the word “meditating” often gets a bad rap, because people immediately think of the “new age” type of meditating that is so common today. However, God used the word meditating long before there was yoga and its meditation or before the far east transcendental meditation arrived on the scene. In fact, shortly after Moses died, Joshua was given the responsibility of leading the Israelites into The Promised Land. The Lord spoke to Joshua at that time and among other things the Lord said to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Obey all the Laws of Moses. … Study this Book of Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.– (Joshua 1: 7, 8. NLT).

The Book of Law at that time consisted of the first five books of the Bible which had been written by Moses under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So, Joshua did not have the entire Bible as we do today to meditate upon because he only had the first five books of the Bible. But God told Joshua to meditate upon the Book of Law and to tell the Israelites to meditate upon it too.

Later as the Lord spoke to other believing men about writing and recording His Words, the number of books added to the Bible grew. We, now have a total of 66 books of the Bible to read and meditate upon. In fact, these Holy Spirit Inspired Scriptures were written by more than 40 authors on three different continents over a period of 1500 years. Moreover, every word from Genesis to Revelation is God-breathed through the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy in which he reminded Timothy and us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.– (II Timothy 3: 16. NIV).

Training, teaching, rebuking, and correcting can only be accomplished, though, if Christians study and meditate upon the Word of God. This means that we must first read the Word of God and then think upon what we have read. How does what we have read affect our life? How can we use the information that God has given us to live a better life and to share our faith in God? Could we possibly meditate upon a particular scripture until we have it memorized so that we can then bring that scripture to mind when we need it? All these and many other questions can be answered if we are willing to meditate upon the Word of God.

The book of Psalms is one of my favorite books in the Bible. There is so much information in the Psalms and so many God inspired words that touch my heart just when I need help. Several of the psalms also touch specifically upon meditating upon the Word of God. In fact, the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119. This psalm may have been written by Ezra around the time of the rebuilding of the Temple after the Israelites were allowed to return to their land. But, what is so interesting about this particular psalm is that it is actually a repetitive meditation upon the Word of God and its beauty. Indeed, meditating upon the Word of God helps God’s children to stay strong and pure, while at the same time it teaches us how to grow ever stronger in our faith toward God. In fact, in Psalm 119 some of the verses actually speak to and promote the concept of meditation on the Word of God. For example, in Psalm 119: 15 the author of this psalm says of the Lord, “I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways.” Then in verses 77 and 78 he again says, “Let Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight. … I will meditate on your precepts.” And then in verse 97, the author says again, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” – (NIV).

If a person is meditating on the Word of God they cannot be focusing on self-criticism. So, instead of continually looking for things that others or you have done wrong, it is much better to focus on meditating on the Word of God to learn from it. God’s Words will soak into our brains and create a pathway to even greater love for our Lord. Try it sometime. You will be surprised at how much peace you will receive from meditating on God’s Word.

As you may know, David wrote many of the Psalms. He, too, talks of meditating on God’s Word in several of his psalms. In fact, in the very first psalm, which may have been written as a preface to all the psalms, David wrote: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”  -- (Psalm 1: 1, 2. NIV).

In another one of his psalms of praise, David wrote:
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on Your wonderful works.”
 -- (Psalm 145: 3-5. NIV).

We can build ourselves and others up by constantly meditating on God’s Word and then sharing that Word with others who may need to hear it. This means, though, that we have to actually make the time to sit down and read God’s Word, then think upon what we have read, contemplate how the words that we have read impact our own life, and then memorize some of the words so that we can use them to impact the lives of others. Obviously, we cannot do the work of the Lord if we do not know what God says about the different subjects that we may encounter in life or know how God wants us to use them in talking to another woman. But, God’s Word addresses all aspects of life. We just need to be willing to read His Word and meditate upon it.

The Word of God is the living Word that is always there to give us strength, direction and purpose. God put His Word into print so that we can access His Word at any moment in time. This also means that if we meditate on God’s Word and keep it close to our hearts that we can pull up God’s Word within our minds at both the crucial times in our own lives and at crucial or needed times in another woman’s life. This wonderful Words of the Lord can be just the right words that a mentee may need to hear. However, if we do not have the Word of God in our hearts, we cannot fully mentor or share those words with another woman who needs to hear the Word of God for a specific moment in her life.

God is Pulling for You!

Did you know that God is always pulling for you? In fact, God wants you to succeed in all your good endeavors. However, God does not want you to be self-critical or to put yourself down. For, God knows that self-criticism is a tactic of the devil. So, God wants you to walk with His Son, Jesus Christ in all aspects of your life, including in your evaluation of your life. We know that God wants the best for us, because we are told in the Bible that God has good plans for everyone that He created. However, everyone was created with “free will” so that we can choose how we live, and we can choose the direction that our life will go. That is why some people refuse to acknowledge God or Christ as their Savior. They are afraid that they will have to give up their free will. They have instead chosen to live for themselves and for the devil. But those who use their free will to choose to live for Christ and His Father instead of for themselves will find even greater freedom in the love of God. Moreover, they can take to heart the words that God told to the prophet Jeremiah. God said, “For I know that plans I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – (Jeremiah 29: 11. NIV).   

Notice that God told the Israelites that He has plans to give them a hope and a future. God’s plans are always good and do not change. He has good plans to give you a hope and a future too. Indeed, He plans are to give all His children a hope and a future. But it is up to each of us to choose to live in obedience to God’s Word and to choose to live with a servant’s heart toward others. This means that we must quit being self-critical or critical of others. Instead, we must look to leaning on and trusting in God for everything.

Keeping those words in Jeremiah 29: 11 within our hearts can give us strength and direction for our lives. Indeed, God has specific blessings just waiting for those who seek them out through trust in, obedience to and love for God. All you have to do is ask the Lord for His help, and then the Holy Spirit will help you find or bring to your mind the specific Scripture that you need as you read and meditate on God’s Word. Instead of being self-critical, God’s Word will then help you accomplish wonderful productive things in your life that God has planned for you.

If you are having a rough time not being self-critical, try to find a Christian woman mentor who has the love of Christ in her heart. This Christian mentoring woman should be able to help you see, by using God’s Scripture, what words you need to focus on to understand how God views you, His child. For, God loves you and wants you to enjoy your life lived for Him. Having a woman Christian mentor who also loves the Lord and sees the good in embracing what the Lord has given us through His Word will help you see not only yourself but others in a whole different light.

Yes, words can hurt! People can be cruel. But we have a choice in the way that we allow those words or that cruelty to affect our lives. If you choose Christ to be your advocate and your Savior, you will never again have to accept those negative words. For, God has good words for you. Christ has loving words for you. Moreover, you are important and special to God. You were chosen to be a member of the Kingdom of God. That is special!

Mistakes Happen in Life

The greatest mistake that you can make in life is continually fearing that you will make one.”  -- (Elbert Hubbard).

Part of being self-critical is dwelling on the mistakes that we make in life. Mistakes just happen in life. Mistakes are a part of life and can be the impetus to developing something even better. For example, just think of how many mistakes that inventors and entrepreneurial people make before they finally succeed in accomplishing their goal. Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, made many mistakes before the light bulb worked. What if he had just given up on himself and his project? What would have happened if he had become so self-critical about the mistakes that he made that he couldn’t continue with his invention. Someone else may have come up with the light bulb, but Edison would not have achieved what he had the capacity and knowledge to achieve if he had just given up, stopped, and become self-critical.

Instead of giving up because of your mistakes, you need to ask the Lord for grace and the understanding to know that you are a work in progress. In other words, we have to be kind to ourselves, if we are ever going to accomplish what God has given us the ability to do. That is why we must ask God to help us rise above our mistakes with grace and to help us to not get down on ourselves when we do make a mistake. Along the way, we have to also ask God for patience to accomplish what we need to do in life.

Remember that discouragement is prompted by the devil, and you cannot let the devil get a foothold in your life. Instead, ask God to give you His words of encouragement through your study of His Scriptures. Then ask God to keep you free from self-criticism and self-condemnation as you meditate on and cling to the Holy Scriptures. Then choose every opportunity to help others as you continue the good work that God started in you.  Also remember to:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” – (Ephesians 4: 29. ESV)

  Prayer for a less self-critical attitude

Dear Lord, please help me to focus on the positive aspects of my life, and to not be critical about the things that I cannot change about myself. Also help me to be less critical of others.

Please, Lord, help me to not be judgmental or critical toward myself or others. I know that no one is perfect. In fact, the only perfect person is Jesus Christ, my Savior. But knowing that I am not perfect should not turn into a pity party or into constant self-criticism. Nor, should I allow the past or present criticisms of others keep me from becoming everything that You want me to be. Those criticisms are not who I am. So, instead, I ask You, Lord, to help me understand and accept that You love me with all my faults and my failures.

I know that you want me to learn from my mistakes. I also know that you want me to grow into a healthy wise person who loves You and others. So, please help me to overcome my true faults and failures as You show me Your truths from within the pages of the Bible. Through complete trust in You I will accept Your help in changing what I need change or in accepting those things that I can’t change, so that I can work at totally living for Christ. Instead of focusing on self-criticism please help me to focus each day on living for Christ.

I thank You, Lord, for your Word! For, it is through Your Word that I can find answers to my problems. And, in reading Your Word, I now know that I am not the only one that has at times failed You. I also know, that You forgive those that are truly repentant. You gave us an example of Your loving forgiveness through the story of the Apostle Peter who really could have succumbed to his own self-criticism for his failure to stand up for Your Son, Jesus Christ.                                                                                                                          

 It is through Christ, and Your Holy Word that I learned that even when Peter did the most horrible thing of denying that he knew Christ, that You and Christ forgave Him. For, the Bible tells us that Peter was in a terrible self-loathing state, after he had failed to acknowledge knowing Christ after Christ had been taken into custody to be crucified. It was in reading the Holy Word written by the Apostle John, where I learned that Peter made his big mistake when he followed Christ and the men who had captured Him to the High Priest’s courtyard.

 Peter had been sitting in the courtyard of the high priest to whom Christ had been taken, waiting to find out what they were going to do with Christ. There in the courtyard a serving girl asked Peter if he was one of Christ’s disciples, but Peter denied knowing Christ. During that evening, Peter was asked two more times if he knew Christ, but he ended up denying that he knew Christ a total of three times before daylight. When Peter realized what he had done, i.e., disavowing any knowledge of Christ, he was disgusted with himself. He believed that he was no longer worthy of Christ’s love.

But Lord, the story did not stop there for you showed Peter that even when we do something terribly wrong we can be forgiven. We do not need to live by self-criticism and under a cloud for the rest of our lives. For later after Christ arose from the grave, You, Christ, met Peter and the other disciples for breakfast on the beach when You appeared to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. For, the Scriptures tell us that,

After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these’? ‘Yes Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love you’.
Then feed My lambs,’ Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question. ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
‘Yes Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I love You.’
Then take care of My sheep,’ Jesus said.
Once more He asked him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?
Peter was grieved that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, ‘Lord you know everything. You know I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Then feed My sheep.’”  -- (John 21: 15-17. NLT).

In this exchange, Lord, you showed us that Peter was not only forgiven, but was being charged with an extraordinary job to do for You. Just like Peter learned, Lord, I have also learned that it is one thing to say that we love you, but something totally different to be willing to do what you have asked us to do in serving you. For in order to do the job that you have given each of us to do, we have to take the focus off of self-criticism and take the focus totally off of ourselves and instead focus on You.

In the above Scripture, I learned that Peter had repented from making the mistake that he made in the courtyard when he denied You three times. I now understand, Lord, that in these verses, You Lord, were asking Peter to make a commitment to living for You. I, too, want to commit my life to living for You and working for You, Lord.

Although it seemed like Peter at first tried to give quick superficial answers, You knew Peter’s heart, and Peter had to face his true feelings for You and commit to doing Your work, dear Lord. I, too, can give up my self-loathing and self-criticism when I make mistakes and allow You to cleanse me and show me how I can become better and wiser through self-evaluation, just as Peter began to understand his commitment to You, Lord. I know Peter had to commit to self-evaluation, I want to commit to self-evaluation too, Lord. And in so doing, Lord, I want to be the person that You created me to be. Thank you for Your forgiveness and for being my Savior!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Vicky! What a timely, always, but probably more now in our nation and around the world...message to each of us!!! Excellent in content, writing, and heart- thank you so much, dearest friend in Christ. I love you. I am continually thankful that we keep in touch, are in one another's prayers, get to see each other sometimes, and continue on the mission that Jesus sent every believer in Him with His last words before departing and ascending to the right hand of the Father, where the LORD is in constant intercession for His children and ones we pray will accept His free but oh-so-costly gift of Salvation. He is the Only One Who can do that for each of us. I am talking to the choir, here :) I love you so much! Donna