And based on my experience, criticism tends to happen whenever something goes well. You preach a sermon you love, you get the deal you’v been waiting for, you write a blog post that blows up… and then somebody decides to rail you for it. Anytime you share your work with the world, you run the risk of being criticized. As I’ve preached and written many different times and plan to keep doing so, I’ve come to expect that this will inevitably happen to me.
But even when you expect it, it still sucks.
Because even when you get 100 compliments, the 1 complaint is much louder. A while ago after receiving some criticism, I was reminded of an important truth that I often like to share with others.
You are not what you do.
Criticism stings because we take it personally. And that really can’t be avoided. But what makes the criticism sting so much? Because when somebody criticizes my work, no matter how much I don’t like what is said I will still replay it over and over again in my head. And no matter what someone else might say to counter the criticism, I often believe something about myself based on what someone says about me.
Criticism hurts because of what we believe about ourselves.
We believe that we are what we do.
When somebody criticizes my preaching, it is a statement about who I am. When somebody doesn’t like my writing, it is a statement about who I am. I attach my identity to the work that I do.
But what if I didn’t find my identity in what I did?
The more and more you deal with haters, the more and more you need to remind yourself of the truth of the Gospel. Your identity is found in Christ Jesus and it has nothing to do with what other people say about you. Your identity is not found in the words of the haters. And, lest you get a false sense of self-worth, your identity is also not found in the words of your fans. Your identity is found in the person and work of Jesus. People might hate you, they might think your art is terrible, and they might even label you a heretic, but you are God’s child because of Jesus.
And believing that might change the way you hear criticism. And in the least, it will remind you of what you need to hear when the volume of the critics begins to drown out the truth of the Gospel.