I sometimes get super anxious about personal criticism.
I’m not quite sure how to phrase this confession. ‘Pesonal critisism’ seems like a very formal way to say that I sometimes have a hard time getting over mean people pointing out things I do wrong.
Disclaimer: I’m not talking about the loving rebuke from the people near and dear to me in my life; I can coach myself into receiving that. But, I have a hard time with the pointed critic telling me what is wrong with me. I hear them and I grit my teeth and smile and nod. This fake smile is obviously a problem, caused by my inner pharisee not wanting to appear angry and thinking that somehow the outward calm conceals from God the sin in my heart. And trust me, there is sin in my heart. I know because I spend hours feeling anxious and replaying and writing amazing rebuttal speeches in my head – never to be delivered of course. sigh.
So, this morning I read this quote about Martin Luther. And, it was kind of like heart surgery. Sitting in my cold office, without an audience I had an audible response (a sort of gasp and ‘amen’ combo if you’re interested).
The quote was about personal criticism, and how frequently it’s accompanied by this defensive indignation in our hearts.
Luther pointed out that regardless of the inaccuracy of the criticism, regardless of how cutting toward the character, the reality is that anyone who condemns me falls short in their view of my sin. No words they could use could accurately describe the true depths of evil and sin within me. “No matter how bad the personal criticisms—no matter how accurate, or inaccurate, the accusations—there is more sin in each of our hearts than a critic could ever discover”. ouch.
So, I always patted myself on the back for identifying and combatting the pharisee in me that keeps me silent and smiling when I am actually indignant over accusation. But it turns out that is not the largest crime my pharisee commits in this case. I think I might have been missing the forest for the trees. Because the real pharisee issue isn’t my outward smile but the inward indignation. oops.
See, the Gospel says that I have no idea how deep my sin really goes. The Gospel brings the truth that I am way worse than I could ever imagine. And while someone may level a charge at me that isn’t ‘accurate’, I surely shoudn’t protest inwardly as if I’m innocent.
So – they accused me of stealing and I didn’t. But hey – I murdered someone this morning, so I’m not sure I need to die on the hill that I didn’t steal. Know what I’m saying?
And the good news of course is that I would be free to accept this truth without indignation if I actually found my righteousness in Christ and not my own good deeds. Because, if Jesus is my worth, then I am not threatened by someone pointing a finger at me. I will be free to agree that ‘I sure am a mess’ and point at Jesus.
The only source of this indignation that I can think of, has to be found in the pharisee. You call me a liar? Well, whether or not I lied today, you are right: I am. But as a pharisee – whose value is based on my own actions – I could never confess that. As a pharisee, I have to cling to the areas I am succeeding and fight for people to acknowledge all the things I did right.
In the Gospel, I can let go of the fight to prove how great I am. In the Gospel I can look into my failures without fear and cling to Jesus.
Oh gosh. This is a big realization for me. Because, I’m indignant about once a day. pout.
Blast. I think I wrote a confession once about how I sometimes get frustrated with sanctification. Refer to that bad boy right now.
Keep up the good work Jesus. And ignore my Israelite grumbling.