Jun 06, 2023 1575 Karen Eberts, USA

How to deal with Criticism

I was listening in disbelief to the chastising words of my home daycare provider. Her disapproving look and tone only added to the churning in my stomach.

There are few things as common to the human experience as feeling the sting of rejection or criticism. It is hard to hear less than flattering words about our behavior or character at any time, but particularly difficult when the critique leveled is one that feels unfair or inaccurate. As my husband often said, “Perception is reality;” I have come to see the truth of that statement time and again. Thus accusations that wound the most deeply are ones that seemingly come out of nowhere when the judgment of our actions may or may not reflect the intentions of our heart. Some years ago I was the recipient of the actions of one who misunderstood my intentions.

Awaiting Miracle

At the time, I was a mother in my late 30s, who was very grateful to have two toddlers. Despite intentional, well-timed efforts to conceive, for a full year, parenthood remained merely a dream for my husband and me. Leaving the gynecologist’s office after yet another visit, I reluctantly accepted what seemed inevitable: our only option now was the use of fertility drugs. Heading toward the car, I remarked dismally, “I guess we should stop at the pharmacy on the way home to get this prescription filled.” It was then that I heard my husband say, “Let’s give God one more month.” What?? We had already given Him a year and had been married nearly two. Our courtship had been slow to bloom. The years had added up until I was now 33 and hearing the steady ticking of my “biological clock.” Now driving home, I supposed I could wait one more month to start that drug…

I peered down at the white stick’s center with the now-blue line. Excitement gripped me, and I ran out of the bathroom, shouting wildly, “We’re pregnant!!” 10 days later, I stood in front of my prayer community “family” of faith and proclaimed the good news, knowing that many of these friends had joined us in praying for this baby’s existence.

Swinging Pendulum

Now, four years later, we had both our long-awaited baby girl, Kristen, and our gregarious one-year- old son, Timmy, and I was listening in disbelief to the chastising words of my home daycare provider, “Miss Phyllis.” Phrases like “rebellion in children needing to be squelched,” Scriptures written out in longhand outlining the consequences of the apparent error of my ways. Her disapproving look and tone added to the churning in my stomach. I wanted to defend myself, to explain how I had read one parenting book after the other and that I tried to do everything the way the “experts” suggested. I stammered about how much I loved my children and was trying with all my heart to be a good mother. Holding back the tears, I left, the children in tow.

Arriving home, I put Timmy down for a nap and settled Kristen in her room with a book to thumb through, so I could have some time to process what had just happened. As was my usual response to any crisis or problem in my life, I began to pray and seek the Lord for understanding. I realized I had two choices: I could deny the words of this woman who had been a patient, loving caregiver for my children since my daughter was 13 months old. I could try to justify my actions, reassert my intentions, and begin the process of finding a new provider for my children. Or I could examine what might have caused her to react uncharacteristically and see if there was a kernel of truth in her chastisement. I chose the latter, and as I sought the Lord, I realized I had allowed the pendulum to swing too far in the direction of love and mercy toward my children. I had used their young ages to excuse their disobedience, believing that if I just loved them enough, they would eventually do what I had asked them to.

Before the Fall

I couldn’t pretend Phyllis’s words hadn’t hurt. They had, deeply. Whether her perception of my parenting was, in actuality true, didn’t matter. What did matter was if I was willing to humble myself and learn from this situation. As the “Good Book” says, “Pride goes before a fall,” and heaven knows, I had already fallen pretty far off the pedestal of perfect parenting that I had set for myself. I certainly couldn’t afford another fall by clinging to my pride and hurt. It was time to acknowledge that the “experts” who write the books may not be the ones to listen to exclusively. Sometimes it is the voiceof experience that deserves our attention.

The next morning, I helped the kids into their car seats and drove the familiar route to Kristen and Timmy’s caregiver, Phyllis. I knew I might not agree at times with advice that might be imparted from her in the future, but I did know that it took a wise and courageous woman to risk challenging me for the good of our family. After all, the word “discipline” comes from the word “disciple,” which means “to learn.” I had been a disciple of Jesus for many years, striving to live His ideals and principles. I had grown to trust Him as I encountered His enduring love again and again in my life. I would accept this discipline now, knowing it was a reflection of His love that wanted the best for not only me but for our family.

Clambering out of the car, the three of us approached the front door when I paused to read once again the wooden hand-carved sign that was perched at eye level: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Yes, that was what Phyllis had done. Just as the Lord does for us every day, if we have ears to hear, He “disciplines those He loves.” Jesus, our Teacher, works through those willing to risk rejection for the sake of another person’s good. Surely, Phyllis was striving to follow in His footsteps. Recognizing that this faith-filled woman intended to pass on what she had learned from the Master for my benefit, I knocked on the front door. As it swung open to allow us to enter, so too, did the door of my heart.


Karen Eberts

Karen Eberts is a retired Physical Therapist. She is the mother to two young adults and lives with her husband Dan in Largo, Florida

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