Spiritual War: Criticism (part 2 of 4)

Falling short. Failing to measure up. Can’t get it right. Not good enough. 

I’m not talking about constructive criticism, I’m here to address destructive criticism. You are not good enough. You don’t measure up. You’re not right. And these things are true because your performance falls short of the ideal. 

Notice the shift in the last paragraph. It is one thing to receive critique intended to guide your development. It is another matter altogether to be critiqued as a person because of what you do, or don’t do. Performance critique has a place in life. Criticism of you as a person is abuse and abuse is never okay. 

If you haven’t read my blog entry, “Spiritual War,” I encourage you to do that now...and then return here. And for the record, the next two entries will arm you with spiritual tools for the battle that lies ahead. 

This entry is an example of spiritual war. If you fight against the fallout of criticism, what follows is a one-to-one correlation. If the results of unjust critique are not your issue, then the challenge is to generalize from what follows and make application to what does beset you. 

Live with criticism of your personhood for very long and you will adopt the conviction that you are inferior, worthless, incompetent, and unacceptable. Since these critiques hit at the core essentials of your humanity, once you take these offenses aboard as justified, you build your life-patterns around the criticism and proceed a wounded soul. 

Then, you become a follower of Jesus Christ and discover you have a new identity in Him. Woohoo. Shortly after the glow of salvation dims, you discover that how you think, feel, and behave are not aligning with your theology. You believe one thing theologically while thinking, feeling, and behaving in a contrary way. 

This is incongruity is what the Bible describes as the battle between the flesh and the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:17). You pray and seek counsel, and you make some progress in overcoming your old patterns, changing the way you manage yourself, but the overcoming you experience as a Believer could hardly be classified as triumphant. 

What’s the problem? 

Is the battle between flesh and Spirit winnable? 

If so, what are the weapons of this battle that will win the day experientially? 

In short, healing occurs by, a) breaking the cycle of wounding, and b) building new patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior. 

Breaking the cycle is only half the remedy, although it is often the only remedy put forward. If this is all you do, then you will actually reinforce the unwanted patterns because you are singularly focusing on them, granted from a different angle, but you are still focused on the undesirable pattern—which is a form of reinforcement. 

What is needed as well is the determination to build a new pattern. 

Of course, the world’s systems will tell you that you can build new patterns by positive thinking, changes of venue, alternations in physical appearance, and new friends. To some extent these factors play a part, but what is essential in the case of abuse, parental, or significant-other wounds is a stronger authority that declares truth about you. 

As followers of Christ Jesus we have this strong, ultimate authority who speaks truth to us about us. With excessive criticism or personal rejection it is the soul, i.e. the individual self, that receives the wound and concludes based upon the negative feedback that we are inadequate at a fundamental, basic level as a human being. This is why simple behavior modification is inadequate by itself to remedy a learned pattern of significant depth. 

Our Heavenly Father, through the completed work of Jesus Christ, makes fundamental and basic declarations about our personhood. This is where we must focus in building new patterning. 

God declares that since we are in Christ we are important, of infinite worth, are valuable, significant, triumphant, unique, loved, liked, etc. These declarations are based upon being in Christ as God’s child. They have nothing whatsoever to do with performance. 

While undue and unjust criticism is leveled at us because of performance, it is the volume of criticism and/or the association of performance with our personhood that wounds us as people. Knowing this, our Heavenly Father speaks to us first and with the most force about our true identity as His children who are transformed in Christ. Once this is established, then He guides our performance, but He guides performance based upon two things: a) who we are, and b) our true motivation which emanates from our heart and the Holy Spirit. 

In short, He is predominantly focused on us seeing ourselves as He sees us and using this reality to fuel the motivation that compels our performance. While He will help us refine our performance, He does so not to clean up performance, per se, but to utilize performance as reinforcement for who we are and the motive for how we take action as His children. 

In summary then, recovery from years of unjust criticism occurs by first breaking the cycle of abuse. Second, recovery occurs by turning from the abuse to the truth that is dictated by God about me. So, recovery is a two-step process. 

Implementing these two steps can occur whether the abuse is ongoing or the abuser is removed. As an adult, you must realize that abuse is never okay. It is not okay when delivered personally from a parent or friend or spouse or authority figure. Continuing, abuse is not okay either when it occurs inside your head and emotions from old patterning or as a temptation by the enemy of your soul. 

As a child, you didn’t know this and couldn’t discern it. As an adult, you can, and therefore must not own or tolerate critique of you as a human being from anyone—not a parent, friend, spouse, authority figure, your own patterning/learning, or from the devil. 

This is what I meant earlier with my comment about boundaries. But further, as soon as you turn from the old patterns, refusing to tread again the old pathways of thought, emotion, and behavior, you must willfully and with determined resolve turn forcefully to what is true about you as determined and dictated by your Father in Heaven. 

The Bible calls this process, “setting your mind” (or something similar) and “practicing” (ref. Phil. 4:8-9; Col 3:2, et al). As you do this, what transpires is the formation of new patterns/habits for how you think, feel, and behave. 

Like any habit, you learned lies by repeatedly practicing what others said critically to you and about you. And, like building any new habit, you will learn new habits of thought, emotion, and behavior by practice and repetition. 

(At this point you should envision diligent practice, e.g. hitting 500 golf balls at the driving range for every ball you strike on the golf course.) 

Take note: You do not practice during a game. Granted, you can learn during a game, but game-day stakes are too high for clear thinking. You practice when you are apart from the pressures of the real challenge. 


I can offer a few additional resources: 

A Study of the Mind by Anabel Gillham and me, Preston Gillham. You can purchase a packet of 10 online here, http://lifetimeministries.myshopify.com/products/xmind, or you can call 888-395-5433 to order a single booklet for $1.75. 

My novel, No Mercy, puts in story form the battle between the flesh and the spirit. As you identify with the main character, Hank, you will observe him model for you how to build new patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior. Sometimes, a model to go by is more effective than 3 steps to follow. You can find more about the book here:  http://www.prestongillham.com/no-mercy

Finally, I recently spoke at a workshop on this subject. As nearly as I can tell, you have to purchase the workshop audio for $.99 here:  http://www.amazon.com/Workshop-The-Temptation-Self-Effort/dp/B00KF3XP7M. If you decide to listen to this resource, you can either access “The Flesh Inventory” and “My True Identity” study sheets from my blog, or you can contact me at preston@prestongillham.com and I will send you attachments via email. 

I trust these lines encourage you. Thanks for reading my blog, and please pass these links along to others with your endorsement.