Sometimes I realize just how mired in people-pleasing I really am. These days I am seeing this all too clearly because there are three people in my life right now who I simply cannot seem to please. No matter what I do or say, they helpfully point out the flaws in what I am doing, or point me towards someone doing it better. And I am a grown up – I should be able to take that. I am a person who absolutely believes in constructive criticism, in working through a good plan as a team until it becomes a great plan, maybe even a God plan. In my business (really both my businesses – the production side and the communications side), criticism is part of the gig. Taste is subjective and sometimes you have do work at something before it is great. In my life, I normally invite honesty and criticism – what my Pastor calls “robust dialogue”. But lately, I’ve just been stung by my total inability to please. Some things that have been said to me haven’t pushed me to do better, instead they have totally deflated me. I end up being crushed – it happened again today. Crushed. And so convicted.
Why convicted? Because my emotions should not be subject to the good, or bad, opinions of others. Should not. I know better than that. So I have to run my emotions through a filter. Am I feeling deflated because I am taking something said innocently and reading it totally wrong? Sometimes, that is true. In fact, in the case of one of my critics, I am convinced that is the case. He is legitimately trying to help me. His motives are pure. So my feelings of being crushed, in that case, are my problem. I need to work through that. I am being hypersensitive and I need to get over it.
In the case of the other two people, I’m not so sure. So I have to test what they are saying and see if they are speaking wisdom, or just projecting their opinion of how I should live my life on my shoulders. A great friend of mine and I pass back and forth this verse when we are criticized, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) That verse is a great way to determine if the criticism placed on your life is from the Lord and should be heeded, or if it is someone who is unwise speaking criticism into your life (someone who has no business speaking anything into the life of a daughter of the King).
I know that some of the criticism I am facing these days isn’t wisdom from heaven. I know it. So why, then, knowing that, am I so crushed? Why aren’t I able to then “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2 -3)
Here’s the truth… I think it is because I am just not at my best these days. I am tired. I am working too much. I am trying so hard. We are just focusing on keeping our heads above water around here these days. And so, given these circumstances, to fail even a little is frightening. Overwhelming. I get to the point where one criticism seems to define my entire existence. One person says something isn’t creative – all of the sudden I doubt my creativity in the 14 arenas of my life where I make my living off of creativity. One person attacks one area of my life, I feel like my entire existence is under attack.
If you don’t know this already, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you – but you’re never going to change them (the critics). Never. So our choice then becomes either change and contort ourselves to please them, or learn to live with disappointing them and be who we were made to be.
This is where I get thankful for this conviction, for this uneasiness, for this panicky feeling. Because it is letting me know that something is wrong. It is like a check engine light. It is like this still small voice in my head saying “Jen – this isn’t you. You are trying to do too much in your own strength. You are trying to please everyone. You are carrying too much weight. Don’t you want to bring these worries to me? Don’t you want to rest? Are you tired yet? Why are you letting this crush you? Come to me, you who labor and areheavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, andlearn from me, for I amgentle and lowly in heart, andyou will find rest for your souls. Formy yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
Oh Lord I am tired. I am exhausted. And I can’t please everyone. I wasn’t intended to. You never placed that weight on me. Why do I take it on myself? I’m sorry Lord. I lay all of this at your feet where it belongs. I was placed here to serve you God. And there is no condemnation for me because of your Son. I forgive those who have hurt me, release them from anger or hope for vindication. I rest in You. You are my strength. Thank you that your love for me isn’t conditional. That I can’t fail you. That I can’t disappoint you. That you love me forever. Help me to be wise and to react to criticism the appropriate way – to take what I need to take into consideration, and to release the rest. Thank you that when I ask for wisdom, you give it. I badly need wisdom today God. And peace for my hurting heart. You are always good. Thank you that you don’t give up on me.