Female hiker standing on a rock looking at a mountain

What To Do When Criticism Cuts Deep

May 28, 2019

I’m accustomed to a fair amount of criticism. As an author and a speaker on a variety of platforms, it comes with the territory. My story, message, and style isn’t for everyone. I get it. Truth is I’ve received far more positive feedback than negative. So the rare criticism I do receive doesn’t usually phase me.

Until I read this book review a few weeks ago:

“The author seems more concerned about convincing the audience of her spirituality with fragmented descriptions of multiple mission trips rattled throughout the text, than (sic) on giving the reader any palpable advice on navigating faith. Parts of the book felt trite, while others were deep with emotion. This read more like an uninspiring autobiography, than a faith-building experience on which to inspire a reader. I am hestitant (sic) to even give this feedback because the author seems emotionally fragile…”

Trite. Uninspiring. Emotionally fragile.

Ouch.

It took me a moment to catch my breath. I stared, unblinking, at my computer screen, trying to swallow the sharp words, feeling a bit shredded in the process. This criticism felt personal, aimed more at my character than my work.

Is this true? Is this how people see me? 

There was a time not that long ago when this kind of feedback would’ve devastated me. I would’ve assumed one person’s opinion represented the greater whole. And, as a result, I would’ve threatened to quit, to hang up my luggage and laptop and settle into a more anonymous life. Who willingly submits herself to target practice? Not me, no thank you.

But this time, the sting didn’t last. Nor did it cause me to resign, change course, or double-down on my efforts to make the whole world happy. Instead, within minutes, I shut my computer and got back to laughing with my closest friends.

Why?

Because I no longer delegate the power to determine my value.

For the past few years, through multiple losses and countless hours spent wrestling with my faith and identity, I’ve finally landed solidly on the truth of who I am. And it’s not up for debate or subject to public opinion.

It’s not even subject to my own.

Who I am is rooted in who Jesus says I am. And the hard work He’s already done, without any effort on my part to earn it or deserve it. 

The TRUTH? I am loved, without condition or prerequisite. God sees me as I am, and loves me anyway. It’s that simple. 

I don’t have to work my fingers to a nub trying to get it all right. I don’t need to manage others’ reactions and opinions. And I don’t have to agonize over every line I write in an attempt to side-step the critiques and misunderstandings of a one-day reader. All I need to do today and tomorrow is this:

To wake up securely in God’s presence.

To examine my heart and actions in the light of His truth.

And then to fall face-first into the ocean of His mercy and grace.

I’m painfully aware of how much growth I’ve yet to do. God knows I have moments when I am trite, uninspiring, and emotionally fragile. And He also knows how many times I’m tempted to impress you with false spirituality.

But God keeps pulling me back to Himself, working a redemption in my heart and mind and life I couldn’t accomplish in a thousand years if I tried. And I trust Him to finish what He’s started.

I hesitated writing this post at all. Why waste any more time on unproductive criticism? Time is better spent not on wrongs and wounds, but on the One who is even now repurposing them. Besides, I am 100% okay—I don’t need reassurance, validation, or retaliation. He’s got me covered, I promise.

But sometime today, tomorrow, or next week, someone is going to throw words at you that cut deep. It will hurt, and you’ll be tempted to buy into the lies about your value because of the misspeak of the person who wounded you.

You can’t afford to wait until that day to find your footing. 

So here are some truths to put in your pocket for the day when criticism cuts deep. It still won’t feel good, but you you’ll be okay. Because you’re already covered. And you’re already loved.

  • I am weak. God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
  • I am broken. God says, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” (Is. 61:1)
  • I am wanted. God says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
  • I am received. God says, “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely.” (Hosea 14:4)
  • I am valuable. God says, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:31)
  • I am led. God says, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Is. 48:17)
  • I am loved. God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jer. 31:3)

NOTE: These statements and Bible verses are pulled from my book I Am: A 60-day Journey To Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is and the accompanying Scripture Cards and Easel. You can find both here. OR, if you’re a Kindle reader, the e-book is currently on sale for $4.99.

QUESTION: Which truth means the most today? I’d love to hear your story.

 

29 Comments

  1. Alexandria

    I so grateful that you took the time to write this post because all of us girls can get right in tight with all the words that you wrote, and all the feels that you expressed because it is time and past time to stand up together as women in love with Jesus who talk with a vulnerability that is honest. I see this as you reaffirming the truth to all of us that we are not the sum of any opinion, but we are only and ever the sum of who Christ says we are! If I may, I would like to take it a step further- Its time, and past time for all who love Jesus to build the habit of speaking the truth of God’s definition out to all others and forsake opinions that do not reflect the truth, so that we could begin to be of “one mind” and make the joy of the Lord complete. What if we only said those things that edify the hearer-and all of us with our weaknesses could come together and instead of shame in our holes, we could rejoice together as we remember that His grace is enough, and when we are weak, His power rests on us….thank you so much for doing that here today….this post was in no way a waste of any time whatsoever. I feel encouraged.

    Reply
    • Andrea Lazicki

      Alexandria responded far better than I could with words that mirror my feelings. Thank you, Michele, for your open heart, open mind, and passion for sharing your love for Christ with all of us in vulnerable, honest, and real life ways.

      Reply
    • Carolyn

      Responding to your question about criticism, I received a very negative review of a book I wrote for children of divorce. It was a read-along book written about a small boy who deals with the doubts and feelings children so often have when a parent leaves the family: Is it my fault? If I’m really good maybe daddy (mommy) will come back? Reading a chapter with your child made it was easier for them to talk about their own feelings together.

      A woman in the writing community whom I respected a great deal labeled it “dangerous,” claiming children don’t feel those things when parents split up. I never asked her, but I wonder if she may have been defending her own feelings from experience. I don’t know.

      I heard a phrase that encourages me often — A Christian is either Up, or getting Back Up on any given day. It’s where we belong when we live in God’s gracious love and accept his all-forgiving Grace. Keep up the good work.

      Reply
  2. Pearl Allard

    Michele, I receive a lot of blog posts daily, but there are few I have time or desire to read. Yours are part of the few I know I will find consistent value in. I know you don’t need comforting so I only mean this as affirmation of what you already know – that your courage to write of your healing wounds is helping to also heal others’.

    Reply
    • Linda

      Thank you for showing us the way to handle those words that hurt. I enjoy the wisdom I get from you. God bless

      Reply
  3. Kathy Walker

    Well said Pearl! I too find Michele’s words sincere and courageous. Thank you for turning us to the voice that really matters.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you, Kathy. So appreciate the encouragement.

      Reply
    • Linda

      Thank you for showing us the way to handle those words that hurt. I enjoy the wisdom I get from you. God bless

      Reply
  4. Jane Woods

    Thank you for the reminder that when we are willing to share what God has done for us, there are always those ready and all too willing to criticize us. When my husband of 44 yrs. left me, I truly wondered how I could continue to “hang on”….I continued to hope and pray that God would heal his heart, but i had not a clue that he left me to begin an adulterous affair, which I found out about over 6 yrs. after he left me. The sorrow which I endured when he left me, paled to the deep despair when I learned of his affair. Having a strong faith, I cried out out to God as to how this could be used for His glory. One of the ways has been that I blog about my blessings of life, so that I don’t dwell on the sorrow which has continued to have a strong grip around my neck. Yet in spite of the blessings I share, there are always those whom are so ready and willing to criticize me. Today was a difficult day for me in many ways and wouldn’t you know it there was a naysayer whom replied to one of my blogs. I just hit the “trash” button and continued on….To God Be The Glory, not those that wish to discourage us. Love in Him, Jane Woods

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Oh, Jane. I’m so sorry for your multi-layered loss. I, too, know the sting of a spouse leaving and choosing someone/something else but me. It causes such a deep wound in our identity and how we see ourselves. And yet, God says He chose YOU, set His affection on YOU, will never leave YOU. He knows a good thing when He sees it. I pray that truth sinks even deeper into your heart and mind and soul and that His presence fills you with a joy you’ve never before known. In Jesus’ name.

      Reply
  5. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Michele, I get value from every single thing you’ve written. They are like gifts to my soul. I tried to put myself in your place in reading that critique and I can’t honestly say I would have handled it as well…which makes this blogpost valuable to me as well!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Sister, walking through the last few years together (digitally!) has been one of my greatest joys and gifts. Thank you for sharing in vulnerability together. I love you.

      Reply
  6. Damon J. Gray

    Thinking back to WCCW, Michele, it’s the “spit pit” that Bill Giovannetti talked about. Do we dare go down there after that ball?

    A couple of years ago, I posed a question to Kathi regarding a very specific criticism over which I was fretting. I expected a lengthy response, filled with insight and life-altering advice. I got the insight, but came as four words – “They’re not your audience.”

    That’s all she said. That’s all she needed to say. I’ll never forget it.

    Thank you, Michele, and God bless you.

    Reply
    • Diane Tarantini

      I love that insight, Damon (Kathi), and Jesse: “They’re not your audience.” I’ll just tuck that in my pocket for a later date.

      Reply
  7. Jane Hinchliffe

    Your so right Michelle – we can so easily find ourselves derailed and as much as words/actions can cut to the core, when we rest in God’s view of us – His love, we realise that we don’t need to be all things to all people. You bring something new and beautiful to the table every time I visit you here.

    Reply
  8. Jesse Duke

    Ditto to Damon’s comment. The critics aren’t your audience. As for me, I’m trying to remember I have an audience of One. As long as I’m doing what I believe to be His will, I can disregard everything else. Having said that, criticism still hurts when we are humble enough to look for some helpful truth in it.

    Keep going, girl!

    Reply
  9. Bob Stromberg

    Thanks Michele for this great post. Not to talk about myself but…I thought you’d be interested to know that your few words here beautifully present the theme of my show “That Wonder Boy”. It takes me 100 minutes to accomplish what you do in a just a few. I think you are a great writer.

    Now… I’ve debated whether I should add a critique but since we’re friends and since you’ve apparently felt the need to tell me over and over and over again how secure you are in your God created identity, I’ll just jump in.

    Quoting Is. 48 you write “I am the LROD your God… “. Now listen Michele… I don’t know who LROD is but he’s not MY God, okay, and I don’t appreciate YOU suggesting he should be.!

    I for one am through reading your blog until next time!!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Correction duly noted. And adjusted. You are a difficult, Bob Stromberg. But Jesus says I should love you anyway. 😉 (Hug Juyd for me.)

      Reply
    • Linda

      Thank you for showing us the way to handle those words that hurt. I enjoy the wisdom I get from you. God bless

      Reply
  10. LeAnne Martin

    What a blessing you are, Michele, to so many. As a fellow writer, I cringed right along with you when I read those words, and I appreciated how you didn’t take them in, you didn’t put away your laptop forever. You turned from them to the truth: that God loves you. Thanks for reminding us that He is the One Whose opinion matters most. We often need to hear the truths that you laid out here and in your book, which I very much enjoyed. I appreciate you. Keep writing! (as if you could quit…)

    Reply
  11. Belinda Jones

    I think your openness and honesty of what you’ve been/are going through and the rawness of vulnerability you exude says it all. You are who you are, and growing to trust Jesus more and more and you are walking through this life 🙂

    well done 🙂

    Reply
  12. Carolyn Lambshead

    Thanks Michele. One of the reasons I read your posts come from your honesty in writing. You admit you’re still on this journey of faith that always has many ups, downs, road blocks, and U turns. Thanks for writing things that need to be shared and help so many of us. May God continue to bless you as you reach so many with His amazing gift of love and hope.

    Reply
  13. Susan Sage

    Michele, I love this on so many levels. I think one of the most powerful statements you made, and one I had to learn, which took a long time, is this: “Because I no longer delegate the power to determine my value.” Oh how I wish people would learn this earlier than I did.

    I have read so much of your writing. I would say the person who wrote the words you shared earlier is speaking out of pain. Looking at how someone’s heart may be broken and hurting has helped me to step back and assess a comment for truth and be able to let go of it if the Spirit indicates to release it.

    I love words, but so many times they are used to hurt others instead of building each other up.

    Thank you again for sharing this. You are a bright light in a darkening world.

    Reply
  14. Trudy

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with unjust criticism, Michele. I love how God turned you to His Truth – “Who I am is rooted in who Jesus says I am.” And I love the picture of falling face first into the ocean of His love and mercy. Thank you for all your encouragement. Also in your book I Am. I haven’t yet read Undone. Love and blessings to you!

    Reply
  15. Angela

    Thank you for sharing. I read it three times. I NEVER read a post three times. Lol. This post was truly a blessing. I want to model your poise and grace while handling criticism. God to the glory who uses your gift to bless others.

    Reply
  16. Kristie Christie

    And if these reviews ever do get to you in a weak moment, I want to give my David’s cell number to you. He always says, “Good!!! You’re stirring things up. Bring on the haters!!! You’re making waves!!”

    Love your words and clarity.
    What a gift and invitation!

    And.
    What our pastor said the other day:

    When flattery or criticism comes your way you can say:

    “Oh, I’m so much worse and so much better than that!”

    “I’m a desperate sinner, unworthy and a mess. You have no idea!!”

    AND

    “I’m a beloved child of the King!”

    Reply
  17. Denise Hisey

    Thank you for being so vulnerable and graciously real with this experience, Michele.
    It resonates with so many of us.
    thank you, too, for the reminder that we can take the time to catch our breath, and respond in reality rather than react angrily.

    Reply
  18. Travis Braucht

    Thank you Michele, for sharing your heart and life with others. I see some Life in you. It takes courage to share honestly. It takes honesty to share honestly. It takes compassion to share respectfully. And all of these characteristics are gifts from our Maker who is the source of all that truly is good.

    Reply

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