#whatkindofwoman Critical or Approving
I’ve heard women, somewhat unintentionally, crush conversations quicker than a demolition team taking down a titan of concrete with a critical spirit gone unchecked. We can beat our man down with words; cut our children with quick, sharp, interrogating questions; or ridicule and poke at everything any friend has to say. Shucks. I’ve been there; I’ve been that woman.
However, I’ve also seen some wives lovingly encouraged their imperfect man, like I’ve seen some coax a timid dog into their warm embrace with gentle words. He walks away, tail wagging in unexpected approval, a grand smile with appropriate pride just beaming. He has been lifted-up and the best of him comes out with this approach, not the worst. This kind of woman knows the art of encouragement. I have something to learn.
It’s so easy to be that self-protecting, critical woman.
It’s a natural defense mechanism to the legitimate hurts and let downs we’ve experienced. Yet, if I am focused in on the negative, I run the risk of becoming blinded to the positive. Let’s be honest, it’s not an enjoyable way to live…for any of us.
Being critical can become a fine art. For years I was bent on winning badges from people who seemingly agreed with my sharp-but-accurate points. However, these badges were just pocket trinkets, not true treasures. I say this because this outlook on life never seemed to make me feel better long-term, just in the short. In fact, the buzz of validation lasted just about as long as their agreeing laughter, and as it rolled away I would realize I still felt crummy.
If I analyze myself, my own critical spirit finds its legs when I allow unforgiveness to take root in the rubble-of-real-hurts gone untended in my heart; when I don’t do my own “work”. Although, I can’t ignore the harsh realities of this world or my own experiences, I have a choice on how I react to them. I can tend to my own heart with love, patience, gentleness, and diligence. I can ask God to join me there, in the work of vulnerability, sorting through the thoughts and feelings that lead towards healing.
I don’t have to allow my past hurts to form as armor also hardening my future. No, I get to choose what treasures I seek in this world. I will find the balance between being positive yet not naïve, strong yet not defensive. I get to forgive, detach, and move on in freedom, peace, and joy.
A critical eye is a narrowed, focused eye that doesn’t let in the good. It seeks out only the bad and it is usually exacting and good at what it does. This limits the joy and enjoyment that is included in the wider scope of our lives.
Sit by yourself and quiet your heart. Go to the place-of-rubble in your heart’s memory; the time and place where trust was broken and hurt still lies untended. This may have taken place years ago, months, minutes, or decades. Regardless of the timeframe, if a place of mourning still exists in your heart it will remain as such until properly tended. Ask God to join you there.
Run your hand over the fallen stones of something lost and broken. Let the remnants of the hurt run like sand through your fingers. Feel the brokenness that lies within. Feel the legitimate and unfair hurts in your heart. Ask God to join you there in this experience. Let Him kneel with you in the rubble. Let Him bring hope to the broken places.
This process takes vulnerability and time. All the rubble may not be cleared away on your fist visit. Come back again-and-again until all the rubble is gone. Next, mentally and spiritually, revisit this place in y our heart and plant flowers of forgiveness, peace, trust in God, tears of hope.
As our hearts heal, our peripheral vision comes back, and the small wonders of the world open to us again. A flower. A smile. A warm cup of tea or coffee. A conversation with a kind friend.
If you don’t trust God to come near your brokenness yet, that’s okay, too. Tell Him so. If you are angry with Him for letting this happen, tell Him so. He’s big; He can take it. If you don’t believe in Him yet, tell Him so. Ask Him to show up in your life in real ways. This is a good, honest, first step in broaching the relationship. If forgiveness hasn’t come yet, for God or others, ask God to help you get there. Be gentle yet diligent; it can be a slow process.
The Practice Summary: Option A and B
Even after the rubble is cleared, continue this chest-opening honesty as a daily practice. This is a process of opening our chests before God and allowing His delicate, healing, and loving hands in to perform acts of surgery on our minds and hearts. He is the gentlest of surgeons we could go to and the best of life-long companions.
This post, #whatkindofwoman Critical or Approving, was inspired by the first character quality called: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence by the Positivity Project. Click on the image to read their write-up on this life-giving character quality that they describe as:
“Transcendence. These strengths allow people to rise about their trouble and find meaning in the larger universe. Strengths of transcendence are appreciation, connection/purpose, gratitude, hope, and humor.”
Visit their website, PosProject.org, to read up on all 24 character qualities.