As sure as death and taxes, The Critic is sure to pop into the life of the dreamer.
Nehemiah had a dream. A God-given dream to rebuild the city where his family was from. And he was ready with exactly what he needed for his dream.
But, lurking in the shadows was Sanballat. Twisting his mustache while watching the joy of the dreamer, he plotted his verbal assault. The critic enters right when he may cause the most damage. The launch of the dream.
When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they laughed at us, mocking, “Ha! What do you think you’re doing? Do you think you can cross the king?”
I shot back, “The God-of-Heaven will make sure we succeed. We’re his servants and we’re going to work, rebuilding. You can keep your nose out of it. You get no say in this—Jerusalem’s none of your business!”—Nehemiah 2:19-20 MSG
“Ha! What do you think you’re doing?” The critic is there to see you fail. The critic is not someone who is giving you feedback so that you get better, the critic is the one who gets pleasure out of seeing you fall. The thing about the critic is this, they most likely had a dream once. They most likely had a dream that woke them up in the middle of the night. A dream that awoke that child-like wonder in their heart. A dream they most likely started to pursue. Then they experienced the harsh, graceless assault of the world and it’s critics and chose to abandon their dream and callous their heart.
Then, in walks another dreamer—you. This dreamer simply represents the dream they gave up on. As a dreamer, you must anticipate the critic. You must be ready for them.
But critique is something you need to run through God. Is that for me? Is there some wisdom in that that I need to hear? If not, ask God to help you to let it go. If there is? Then try to lean into it and gain something. Even if it wasn’t packaged well!
In the end you won’t improve if you don’t get outside perspective. It hurts and is extremely vulnerable, but without critique you will be going through life with only one perspective giving you insight—yours. And that will only take you so far.
To truly do this, you have to not let what you do become who you are. Your identity is found in your creator. He created you to create. So to create something beautiful and unique in you area, you have to develop a healthy separation between you and your work. Then the critic will begin to look less like an assault on you and more of an asset to you.
But the Critic doesn’t just come from the outside. The Internal Critic can be the most damaging.
I’ve battled an internal critic since I was a kid. It’s a voice that quiets down in seasons and get’s louder in other seasons. Ryan, you aren’t any good at speaking. You stutter and lock-up when you speak. You’ve been like that since your childhood. Why haven’t you given up on that yet?
The internal critic can be brutal. And I am certainly not the only one with similar tapes playing over and over in my mind. Moses had the same tape playing in his own head.
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”—Exodus 4:10
Moses has, at this point, seen very tangible proof of God. He has experienced many miraculous manifestations of God. But even witnessing miracles is not enough to overcome the affects of the internal critic. Moses has seen God’s power on the external, but that has not translated to faith that God can overcome the internal. Maybe Moses flashed back to that little Egyptian school house he went to. Maybe he remembered how the kids made fun of his stutter when he read out of his social studies text book. Wherever that idea was planted, Moses took hold of it. And never let it go.
This is why identity and God’s nature comes back to us a such an important foundation for the dreamer. It’s vital.
When you don’t understand who God created you to be, and you don’t fully grasp the nature of the Dream Giver, you will naturally fall back on insecurities. The internal voice that reminds you of your weaknesses. The internal voice that tries to drown out the voice of your Creator.
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