“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”
My mom taught me that well-known phrase early in my childhood. I tended to be an overly-sensitive and dramatic little girl.
Once I came home from school in tears. “A mean boy on the bus is calling me names,” I wailed to my mother.
“What name did he call you?” my mother asked. “He called me Burgard kid,” I replied.
I should explain that “Burgard” was the name of the elementary school I attended. The boy in question attended a different school.
“He was probably trying to get your attention. He doesn’t know your name. Perhaps he likes you,” my mother suggested.
“He doesn’t like me. Boys are mean!” Mom just shook her head.
Mother’s wisdom aside, words most certainly can hurt, especially if they are used to criticize.
Our first response to criticism is often to become defensive. We build a case of denials, rationalizing grounds for deflecting the accusals and defending ourselves against further hurt.
The problem with an immediate reaction of defensiveness, though, is that it prevents the possibility of growth from legitimate, maybe even gentle, helpful criticism.
The best response to criticism is thoughtful consideration.
If, after honest reflection, you determine the unfavorable appraisal is at least partially accurate, use it as inspiration for growth. No one is perfect; even, difficult as it is for me to confess, me.
It isn’t easy admitting we need “fixing” but making needed corrections to become a better person is worth the momentary embarrassment we may feel when our faults are pointed out.
And when the criticism leveled against us is intended to hurt? The Bible tells us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
Yes, even when the criticism aimed at us is hostile and cruel, defensiveness is still not a feasible option.
Others have diverse motivations to spew destructive criticisms our way, including jealousy, insecurity, self-righteousness, anger, revenge, and even ignorance. Our response should always be the same: grace.
Yes, they don’t deserve it, but neither do we and yet, grace is ours, freely and abundantly given without asking.
Giving this unmerited grace blesses two people: us and the offender. Rather than nurturing hurt, we are unbound by spite or offense. We are free to bring understanding and tolerance into another person’s life.
Is this easy? Nope. Not at all. Our default reaction is umbrage and lots of it. But this is a chance to model Love, to grow emotionally, to escape from the bondage of victimhood.
Maybe that’s what Mom was trying to teach me all those years ago when the boy on the bus hurled the vile epithet “Burgard kid” my way.
By not forgiving, I missed the perfect opportunity to dispense grace to that obviously troubled young man.
Please click on the following link to read more funny or inspirational one-liners. One-Liner Wednesday.
You can find the places I link up here.