Critique and Criticism: Those who oppose women in leadership and ministry would like nothing more than for women to remain critical of their calling, take on a critical and or bitter spirit, and have low self-esteem about their worth and value in the Kingdom. Let’s explore critique, and know which types of criticism might be helpful in our journey as female leaders.
Being critical can have several meanings. First and foremost, being critical can mean searching deeply within ourselves and reflecting on who we are and why and how we do what we do. This is a good type of critique, because it promotes growth, change, and learning. As leaders, we need to be honest in our self-critique and ask ourselves the hard questions: What are my motives for being in ministry? Who and What has God called me to be and do? How am I growing and learning? How am I taking care of myself? What are my strengths and weaknesses? How am I in relationship with God and community? This type of self-critique is good and often can promote life giving change and transformation in our lives. It may not be easy to ask ourselves these questions, but it is certainly necessary.
A second type of being critical is negative criticism: both received from others and self. As women of faith and leadership, there are times when we can be very negative critical on ourselves. A lot of this type of criticism comes from our own values and beliefs about our worth, value, and at times acceptance of shame rather than grace. The idea of being “good enough” in the sight of self, God, and others is often a long hard journey and process. Part of the reason why it is hard might be because we have talked bad about ourselves for years, always thought of ourselves as broken or worthless, or have relied on others for our internal worth and validation. Society and culture has often demeaned, sexualized, or even at times demonized women. God wants us to know that we women are made in the image of God. We are worthy of love, belonging, acceptance, and community. We are valuable gifts God has given, and God is pleased with us. God wants to give us grace. God wants to give us love. At times, we are our own worst enemy and critic. Techniques and strategies you can practice daily are to encourage yourself in the Holy Spirit, talk good about yourself, receive God’s grace in your mistakes and failures, stop trying to please everyone, take responsibility for your self-care and respect God in your mind-body-spirit-and soul, and stop trying to be perfect and hold unrealistic images of self. Holiness is not about unrealistic images of perfection and works righteousness. Holiness is living unto God and community in authenticity, love, and grace. It is not about what we can do or give, it is about receiving God’s grace and feeling “good enough” because God has called us in our humanity “good.”
A third type of critique I want to address briefly is the type of critical spirit which breeds bitterness and hate. I want to begin first by acknowledging that being a female in leadership and ministry is not easy. I also want to acknowledge we experience pain, hurt, discrimination, and wrong-doing for following the Call of Christ. Having said this, I feel it is important to address the critical spirit and bitterness which can rise up within a female leader when she is hurt, abandoned, rejected, or not valued. I have experienced this type of critical spirit and bitterness, and have had to ask God to help me. Like a wounded dog there were times I might lash out or be very critical because of the injustice I saw and experienced. I have had people look me straight in the face and tell me I could not be called to leadership because I am a woman. I have sat in rooms when people made jokes about women in leadership, and posted inappropriate comments on FB demeaning women. I have felt hurt and betrayal at times, because the road and path of being in leadership is not easy. Yet, even in the middle of these hurts and the brokenness I have experienced, I can say: I need the community and God. On a very small measure I can relate to the suffering of Jesus, and his call to “forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Yet, it is my responsibility to forgive and to not hold a space for critique and bitterness in my heart. It is my responsibility to love. It is my responsibility to even in the suffering and hard times, hold fast to my calling and stand on higher ground. I do not have to justify my calling. God has called me. God will go before me. God will prepare the way. My responsibility is to trust God and be faithful. So I reject a critical spirit, and I reject any bitterness or hatred which would try to come into my heart-soul-mind-spirit-and strength.
As you read this devotion, I hope you will think more about critique and criticism in your life and allow the Holy Spirit to be with you as you reflect. Where do you need growth? Where do you need strength? How can you be honest with yourself and others, and grow into the leader God wants you to be? How is God’s Spirit speaking to you today?
© Copyright 2017 Crystal Schmalz Ministries and Women of Vision Leadership