Ever since you were small, someone has been telling you what you can't do. Your mother told you that you couldn't walk down the middle of the street, your father told you that you couldn't ride your bike without reflectors and your teachers told you that you couldn't run in the hallway.
During life, there are hundreds of people who not only tell us what we cannot do, but what we can't accomplish.
"You can't be a chemist. You're not analytical enough."
"You can't be a professional singer. You're not attractive enough."
"There is no way you'll make it as a teacher. You're not patient enough."
"You must be kidding! You want to be a pastor's wife? You won't be a good role model."
Sadly, we often fear the criticism of others and when it does happen, we take it to heart. For this reason, even into adulthood, we're often waiting for someone to tell us it's OK to "cross the street" to our God-given purpose because we are afraid that if we blow it we'll look like an idiot—and then what will they say?
If God is for you, who can be against you?
Several years ago, I realized I'd been waiting for someone to encourage me to write a book. I thought if another, more successful writer validated me, then I could start moving toward the dream that God had placed in my heart. Deep down I didn't want to look foolish. One day as I browsed the bookstore for inspiration from an accomplished writer, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, "Why are you looking for a leader outside yourself? Write what I have given you."
No matter who you are, or what you want to accomplish, the only leader you need to move toward your purpose is the Holy Spirit. If God is for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31). Which also begs the question, "Why do we fear criticism?"
Even Jesus knew when to ignore naysayers who wanted to prevent Him from accomplishing His purpose. In Luke 4:30, those in His hometown became furious when He said He was sent by God. To destroy Him, they drove Him out of town to the top of a hill so they could throw Him over a cliff. What did Jesus do? He walked through the crowd and went His way.
Because He knew who He was and who His Father was, He decided He would "cross the street" to His God-given purpose, even if no one but God agreed.
Sometimes the best way to move on to God's purpose for us is to ignore negative evaluations and comments and, just like Jesus, go merrily on our way.
Peas and carrots, rice and beans, fear of criticism and self-protection.
Just as peas and carrots, rice and beans, and peanut butter and jelly go together, the fear of criticism and self-protection are also a pair. If you fear criticism—guaranteed—you're also self-protective. But there is a high price to pay for allowing the fear of criticism and self-protection to have their way in our lives and to get hold of our minds.
Can you imagine what Christ's life on earth would have been like if He had been self-protective and feared criticism?
After being mocked by political groups, old and young men and spiteful Pharisees, He would have determined who He would associate with, what He would say in His final hours on earth; and rather than keeping His mouth shut when He was falsely accused, He would have defended Himself. When His enemies spit in His face, He would have retaliated. When they called Him names, He would have called down a legion of angels to defend Him. When they marched Him to Golgatha, He would have run. And rather than laying down His life to give His all to those He loved, the redemption of the human race would have been lost in His misguided passion of self-protection and the fear of criticism.
When we fear criticism and are overly self-protective, we miss out on being a gift to others. You see, your purpose is not just about you; it's about many people that God wants to influence and help through you. So if you struggle with criticism and self-protection, get alone with God and ask Him to give you the strength you need to move forward in your purpose in faith. And remember, you are living your life for the approval of just One.
Even the saints experienced criticism.
Throughout Scripture, men and women who were called to do something significant for God experienced criticism.
When Moses led the children of Israel through the desert, he cried out to God many times because those who followed him blamed and criticized him.
Noah's neighbors laughed and mocked him when he built the ark. Paul was labeled as overzealous, unimpressive in person and insincere. Every one of the disciples was criticized and, with the exception of John, all were criticized right to their deaths.
The point is this: If we insist on being comfortable by avoiding the criticism of others, we will not fulfill the purpose that God has for us. Even though comfort and freedom from criticism is on our checklist it's not on God's. His is a higher standard of virtue and redemption.
Remember you're in a battle.
In his book, "The Believer's Armor," John MacArthur writes, "You have all the resources, power and principles to live the Christian life. . . Even though power is available to follow godly principles, the enemy wants to withstand any good thing that God sets out to do. He will attempt to thwart God's divine purpose for your life."
As you can see, one of the main ways that Satan wants to thwart your purpose is by causing you to fear criticism. But God wants to provide you with the courage you need to say no to the fear of criticism and yes to Him. Isaiah 53:4 says that Jesus was despised, rejected and not esteemed; so He knows full well the battle that rages against us with criticism.
The question is this: Will you hold His hand, look the fear of criticism in the eye, step out in faith and live out your God-given purpose for the sake of others and for Christ?
He's waiting for you to say yes.
Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo. (www.runtogodministries.org)