My (Hopefully) Last Post on Why It Hurts So Much When Other People Criticize or Disapprove of Me - Elisabeth Klein
I know I’ve been harping on this, especially lately (and when I say lately, I mean the past year or so). But I think I’ve realized the three main reasons my skin is so very thin, why it hurts me so much to know there are so many people out there who think I’m doing so many things wrong. So here goes. 

Reason number one: I didn’t ask

AlAnon has this great belief that we shouldn’t give advice to people who haven’t asked for it. I have spent the last several years really trying to put this into practice. It is such a beautiful way to live. It keeps you out of other people’s business, which in turn, keeps you from hurting people left and right, and it frees you up to focus on the only person you’re ultimately responsible: yourself. If someone asks for advice or constructive criticism, I prayerfully consider giving it and then do so gently. But, for the most part, if someone doesn’t ask, I really try to keep my mouth shut. 

So imagine my horror when everyone else in the world didn’t also simultaneously learn this new lesson with me, and I kept on getting advice and criticism that I never sought out. I think I was more hurt than before I knew of this new way of life…this whole not-doling-out-what-wasn’t-first-asked-for thing. 

And in thinking back over, say, the past fifteen years of criticism I have received, most of it has been from people I haven’t asked for it from.  I think back to a time, perhaps seven or eight years ago now, when I was handed a letter with a list of many of my flaws that one gal and her (preferred-not-to-be-named) friends all thought I might want to know about. What?! I was just minding my own business and, bam, a huge list of things wrong with me fell into my lap, told to me by someone nowhere near to my inner circle. Pain upon pain. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a woman who believes in living life in isolation. I have a strong support system and I actually probably ask for more advice than the average gal (more than likely because I believe I am incapable of living life, due to years of criticism…see how the cycle can just go on and on here?). But having someone who isn’t in my inner circle and doesn’t know my day to day life or the inner workings of my heart tell me what I’m doing wrong just plain hurts me to my core. And that, my friends, has been happening a stinking lot lately. 

Reason number two: I’m pretty sure I get ragged on more than most people.  

I could be wrong here, but seriously, my friends almost never talk about someone criticizing them, like aside from a job performance review or something. So, that leaves me feeling like I have a “target on my heart” to quote one of my friends recently, like I’m super doing things super wrong across the super freaking board. 

Now, I know I’ve got a blog and some books and I speak and I used to lead a ministry. But most of what I’m referring to doesn’t have to do with all that. It has to do with my life, my decisions. But, so, I look around and see like no one else being pummeled like I’m being pummeled and though, perhaps, I should feel special…funny, I just feel hurt. Really very hurt. 

Reason number three (and this is the biggie): I’m not trying to be mean or mess up or… 

This just recently hit me like a lightning bolt. In all of the things that have been said to me over the years – everything from someone outright telling me they disapprove of me to being called a lying ass to being told a mothering decision of mine is controlling and selfish to being called a Pharisee to being told I was wrong to let my divorce happen, among ten thousand other things – in not one of the instances where I was criticized was I intentionally trying to be wrong or sin or hurt someone or be unkind or get someone back or, well, anything intentional. 

Which means, for the, let’s just say one thousand times I have been criticized about something in the past several years, I have been prayed up, trying to live right, getting wise counsel, seeking out Scripture’s wisdom, with the Holy Spirit inside of me, just trying to do the right thing. 

And yet. And yet, I seem to be more wrong than most people are wrong, and I’m even really trying hard to live my life right most of the time. Just me being me is wrong more than the average person. 

How can that be? So perhaps you can see why it would hurt so much. Especially after years of living within abuse, and so my foundation has gaping cracks and I just believe what I hear as if it’s all truth and let it all sink in to my deepest places. And especially when it keeps happening. And especially when I’m trying to just live with my head down, sitting in my house on my couch with my dog, living this quiet little life. 

So, yeah, I’ve figured out why it all hurts so much. 

And the best I can figure out of why this keeps happening isn’t even so much about the varied things I’m criticized about – because Lord knows it covers practically every area of my life – as much as me trying to learn to live above the noise. To tune out the words of every single person who has something unkind to say who doesn’t even know me. I must have a ways to go on this, and that’s why it keeps happening. But I’m hoping and praying that this will be the year that God slows this down for me. That I am set free. 

Help me see me through your eyes only.  Help nothing else sink in any longer.  I can’t do this anymore, Lord.  I’m beaten down and so broken by everyone else’s judgments over my life. But no one else’s opinions matter but yours. Help me really and truly and finally believe that into my bones. Heal me from all the harsh words that have gone too far down into me.  Amen.

And perhaps one more reason why it keeps happening. It is firmly cemented into my heart that I don’t want to be like them, like those who have done this to me.  If Jesus is the Great Doctor, then I want to viewed as a patient advocate — holding a hand, taking vitals, stroking the hair, getting a tissue, offering a cup of cool water, listening, whispering a prayer; all gently, all grace. All softness and quietness and light and love. I now know how it hurts to be on the receiving end of judgment and harshness.  And I don’t want to be on the giving end ever again.

Help me be the empathetic, compassionate person, leaving the judging to you alone. Amen.

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.