Saturday, July 9, 2011

Combatting Criticism: The Art of Shrugging

I've had to teach my son the art of the shrug. It began when several times a day he would come to me in a heated fury with a remark like, "Mommy, she said I wasn't a boy!"

What do you tell a four year old who feels his masculinity is in question? Well, I told my son to shrug it off. "You are a boy, aren't you? You know you are. So just shrug it off, son. It's not worth a fight."

But "shrugging" criticism isn't always easy. The hurtful remarks and cynicism can pierce pretty deeply sometimes. Why? Because the words prey upon our fears and doubts. When our convictions aren't nailed down, when we feel a little uneasy or inadequate, the criticism haunts us.

The key to defending yourself against this criticism is not lashing out in fury and reacting on the outside, but establishing your defenses on the inside.
  • Forming Conviction. Criticism absolutely demolishes weak convictions. If I'm only "more or less" convinced of what I ought to be doing, then I start to second guess my motives. Some re-evaluation is healthy, but constantly doubting your conviction leaves you paralyzed with fear. If my conviction is based only on what "feels right" without the concrete answers to anchor the conviction, criticism has an easy target.
  • Gaining Confidence. Bottom-line: confidence comes through experience. When your convictions have weathered a few storms and remained buoyant, confidence begins to break through the clouds. Confidence is not an evil, by the way; close-mindedness is. You can be confident in your conviction, while remaining open to better ways of accomplishing your goals. When you have confidence, the focus is on finding better solutions.
  • Remembering the Cause. Sometimes, it's not the lack of conviction that makes us an easy target. Rather, it's the feelings of inadequacy. We aren't sure we are carrying out our convictions in the best way. I don't know any homeschool parent who hasn't stopped at one point or another and had to ask, "What on earth am I doing?" But realizing that others feel equally inadequate is a defense in itself. Your feeling of inadequacy doesn't make you inadequate. Remember why you are striving and what you are striving for.
Chances are, when you remember the cause you are striving for, you will be less concerned with how smooth the march becomes. Most battles are not won with a straight charge ahead, but with a series of charges and retreats. So your homeschool might not be as creative, as structured, as routine, as ordered, as whatever as someone else's. What does it matter?

Do you know that you are doing what God has called you to do? Then do it with all your might. God knows, and you know. So together, let's practice the art of shrugging: deep breath, shoulders up. Now let it all go.

For more on "Combatting Criticism," visit Tracy's blog Growing in Grace.

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