The Red Pen Rumble

“When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. The solution is getting totally clear on the people whose opinions actually matter.” (Rising Strong, Brené Brown)


What has criticism looked like in your life? I wrote this question in my journal as I read Rising Strong. Queen B talks about “rumbling” with criticism – that we can neither totally ignore what people think, or be totally defined by it. I let the question sit there for a while. I didn’t like it.

Criticism is a flinch word for me. I hate doing anything wrong or letting someone down. Ideally I would do everything perfectly, and faster than expected.

I realize that is unreasonable. But that is really my hope. That is my expectation of myself. Anyone with me?

What has criticism looked like in my life? It has looked like my parents catching me in a lie, the judgmental stares from the old people at church, Dad finding that burned CD in my car with that Nelly song on it, a boss telling me what I should have done differently. Criticism looks like red pen all over my life.

Criticism. It is a miserable word. It sounds like pointing out all my flaws. Like your high school crush telling you that you’re bad at giving massages (that’s like, totally a hypothetical example).

I’m a people pleaser – so criticism is my worst nightmare. I’m not meeting all your needs? I’m a failure. I’m not behaving perfectly? I’m an awful person. Anyone else?

How do we learn to take criticism from a trusted source and not take it on as identity? How do we not become a liar, a rebel, a bad masseuse?

Like anything in life, we need to look at how God handles it. What does criticism look like from the LORD? He gently redirects – walks next to us as we wander. He guides (and sometimes pushes) us away from bad and toward good. He is a Shepherd. We say things like, “He slapped me with the truth” or “He shook me silly;” images that make Him sound mean and abusive. That isn’t His character. He is safe, He is kind, He is gentle. He gives good things. He leads us in paths of righteousness. He desires good for us.

He speaks truth and love over us. By Him we are named “free,” “redeemed,” and “whole.” He never names us our flaws or mistakes. In His eyes we are never defined by that.

LORD, would we rumble with that struggle! Would we fight against our natural inclination to be defined by criticism. Would we continue to seek You and hear You speak our identities over us: Beloved. Child. Whole. Redeemed. Treasured. Known. Changed. Saved. Beautiful.

May these words pour over us, washing away the blood and pain of our pasts, the lies we have believed and allowed ourselves to be defined by, and take on a new identity as His beloved. May His love and care wipe away the scars of past criticism, healing us all the way through. May we trust wholeheartedly that we are MADE, LOVED, and TREASURED by the Creator of the Universe, the Maker of all things good, the Hero of our redemptive story.

By His wounds we are healed.

By His strength we win.

By His love we are defined.

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I write to process, and sometimes send those thoughts out into the void. Passionate about Jesus and people and bringing those two together. Living in and loving Denver. Working with college students, who are the coolest. Seeking Jesus and JOY in everything.

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