Recently my husband told me “your feathers are easily ruffled.” My husband doesn’t point out things to me very often, so when he did, I was so appalled-it was funny. Well, my husband is funny. Only he could point out a flaw to me and at the same time make me laugh. Laugh in a how-could-you-say-that-to-me-kind-of-way!
I thought about my feathers being ruffled for a bit. It was hard. It was hard to receive criticism. Someone saying that you fall short of a standard doesn't tend to be easy. It made me think, is it so hard because I’m so critical? Well, if I’m being honest, that’s not hard to answer. Just ask my Sunday morning Starbucks date, she’ll tell you that being critical is something I am often trying to defeat.
Right now I am reading Counsel from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Dennis Johnson and I read an amazing paragraph on criticism:
Do I find it difficult to receive criticism? Are your transparent and vulnerable before your friends or defensive and self-protective? In your mind do you rehearse your accomplishments or others’ faults when someone corrects you? Do you think that criticism is always a bad thing? If you find it difficult to take criticism, it’s because you haven’t believed what the cross says about you. The cross is the most blatant statement of criticism ever displayed (my own emphasis added). It says you deserve to die. You deserve to be stripped and naked and humiliated and then to receive the righteous wrath of a just God for all eternity. That’s what we all deserve. But we have been given grace, forgiveness, and relationship with Him. You would need to defend yourself from criticism only if you didn’t have a Savior who loved sinners. If you are defensive, you are missing the gospel.
I did try to defend myself from his concerns about me. But don’t you see this? Don’t you see that? I asked him playfully (yet out of the overflow of my heart) This hurt me and that was crossing the line! I told him defensively. But then this quote points me to the gospel. I am a dirty, rotten, sinner. I deserve what Jesus received on the cross. That should have been me. No remark is as true as “You deserve to die.” When I think about that, no other criticism comes close. All critical thoughts of others fade away.
And as far as defending goes? It's unnecessary. I don't need to save face because Christ didn't. If it’s true sin that my feathers are easily ruffled (and they are) then it was gracious of the Lord to point it out to me-it shows me I'm his daughter (a sinful one-yet his still HIS). If a criticism doesn't ring true then let them come all the same, after all, if I have truly been crucified with Christ, then this false accusation is nothing in comparison to what Christ received. And I don't deserve to be treated better than Jesus.
But whether the criticism is even true or not, I like what Dr. Poirier says in his article The Cross and Criticism: "If God has justified me, who can condemn me? If God justifies me, accepts me, and will never forsake me, then why should I feel insecure and fear criticism? Christ took my sins, and I receive His Spirit. Christ takes my condemnation, and I receive His righteousness.” No matter my sin, I am justified, accepted by God himself because of His Son Jesus that took on my condemnation, and I have undeservedly received his righteousness.
No matter what type of criticism we receive, may we not fear our pride being hurt, our hearts being shown, or the opinions of others. May Jesus sanctify my critical heart so much that I can one day respond to criticism this way:
"You have not discovered a fraction of my guilt. Christ has said more about my sin, my failings, my rebellion and my foolishness than any man can lay against me. I thank you for your corrections. They are a blessing and a kindness to me. For even when they are wrong or misplaced, they remind me of my true faults and sins for which my Lord and Savior paid dearly when He went to the cross for me. I want to hear where your criticisms are valid."
My feather’s being ruffled isn’t even the half of my sin. Yet I am still loved and forgiven by my gracious Savior. How sweet the cross looks even in the face of criticism.