We say the wrong thing and stutter.
We say the right thing, but it’s not well received.
We get stuck without a response and freeze.
Our intentions are misunderstood.
And then it happens. Defensiveness moves in like a crouching tiger, ready for the kill.
It’s tough to admit that I had to walk away from the computer keyboard this week. It doesn’t happen often, but I was tempted to go radioactive on some commenters who’d gotten harsh on social media. I’d delivered two freelance articles that were released within days of one another. One was fairly benign, a motherhood article. The other was a little controversial depending on the type of church the reader attends. One would think that I would have been hesitant to take the assignment, but alas, I was naively unsuspecting.
The comments that followed stung. I was left bewildered—just God and me—asking Him if I’d really blew it this time. Have you ever noticed that dark judgment usually lingers, while positive comments get cast aside? I ruminated over each negative critique, formulating hypothetical responses to each one. You may not know this about me, but I’m a fantastic debater (if only in my own mind).
Ultimately, I had to let it go, convinced that God would use that piece to continue engaging Christians in conversation, regardless of their views toward me, the author. Criticism goes hand in hand with facing the world (and sometimes the church body) head on.
Have you put yourself out there lately? At home? Work? School? Church? If so, it’s inevitable that you’ll come up against pushback or criticism, if you haven’t already.
Instead of waving our fists around in the air, here are three things we can keep in mind when we’re tempted to get defensive:
1. Whether we’re wrong or we’re right, Lord, show us.
In Psalm 139:23-34, it says this:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
Before we react, it’s always good to stand soul-naked before God, asking Him to search our hearts. No clarity or direction will come until we’ve done that. As for me, the next time I accept an assignment, I’ll be much more discerning.
2. Earthly justice isn’t a sure thing, but protection is a promise.
“Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe.” Psalm 31:2
Like a child running from a squabble and then clinging to his mother’s leg for protection, so too can we, with our heavenly Father. Whether or not we’re to blame, the lesson is in our dependence. What will we choose to learn from it all?
Personally, do I want to respond to every single comment on that article thread? Sure! Do I need to? Not at all. I’ve chosen peace and safety, close to Him.
3. Sometimes we respond. Sometimes we stop trying to have all the answers.
“The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14
Sandwiched between the army of an angry Pharaoh and the wilderness that awaited the Israelites, Moses spoke those words to the frightened masses. In other words:
Stop trying to save yourselves. Don’t panic. Hang on a sec for instruction.
In whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, we can choose peace.
If not, I suppose running for the hills is always an option. But know that, like Moses, God will eventually deal with us there too.
Besides, bumbling through life’s lessons is always better with friends.
Now somebody hide my keyboard!
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M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.