Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me?!?! Are you kidding? I’d rather take a beating with sticks and stones than harsh criticism. Especially coming from someone that I care about or that has some authority in my life.
I remember once, when I was in my twenty’s (a long, long time ago), I had a neighbor that was very opinionated about where the children in the neighborhood played. One Sunday afternoon I was throwing a Nerf® football on the sidewalk with my 7 year old son. This neighbor approached us and started yelling and saying we better not hit her car with the ball. She went on to criticize me for teaching my son to play irresponsibly and before I could say anything she walked away still complaining and saying if she found any damage to her vehicle she knew who to blame.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? Did you:
- you struggle to provide a reply that would help the situation?
- you go completely blank?
- not sleep for days replaying what you should have said?
- you overreact in a rage that, while it may feel good in the moment, damages your public identity and doesn’t provide a good example for your 7 year old?
In the above story I was left speechless. I felt my body go weak and you could have knocked me over with a feather. Later I thought of all kinds of wonderful, clever things I wish I’d said but a good come back doesn’t count if you have to leave and literally come back. I wrestled for days about her opinions and judgments of me as a mother and the way I was raising my son.
Learning how to handle criticism can be difficult. I’m glad to share with you a few things that I’ve learned since that incident above.
- We are judging machines. To be human is to have opinions and judgments about everything. While it’s impossible to not have these opinions it is important that we are responsible for what we say.
- Our opinions say more about us than what we are speaking about. This is because our opinions are not based on universal truths. They are based on our standards about how things should be.
- We become emotionally attached to our point of view and hold our opinions as facts. Opinions are important but it’s recommended you visit them and not take them home to raise!
- Opinions are not right or wrong and they are not true or false. They are either grounded or ungrounded.
Perhaps the best thing I’ve learned is if we are not paying attention we can easily give our authority away to others by treating their opinions as facts and living them as though they are true statements about us. I’m grateful I’ve learned to have compassion for people like my old neighbor. Her opinions spoke very loudly about how unhappy she must have been.