Unfortunately, living public lives invites criticism. It happened to the leaders in Scripture and it is still true today. People that wouldn’t care about floor tile color at the mall have a definite opinion about it at church. Sometimes the criticism is silly or at least has little validity. But other times, there may be a nugget of truth behind it. We know our husband’s hearts and are able to see their love for the Lord and His people – sometimes others don’t. But regardless, when criticism hits, our position of influence enables us to either come alongside or get in the way of what the Holy Spirit might be doing through it.
Here are some tips for coming alongside your husband when he is criticized.
- Don’t feed the fire.
When I see that my husband has been wounded by someone’s criticism, because I love him and am the one who knows his heart for the Lord, all I want to do is to get rid of the hurt. I want to discredit the witness that said these awful, hurtful things. So you have one incident that is making you angry, I’ll add three more – but they are examples of how this person’s viewpoint can’t be trusted or ways that they’ve acted foolishly in the past. This adds more fuel to a burning fire and makes it harder to put out in the end
- Don’t mount an attack on the person.
Remember that “hurt people do hurt people.” Our husbands have been called to shepherd even those stubborn, reluctant sheep that seem to be only wanting to head back to the fly- infested, stagnant swamp they call home. When the ones we love are hurt or in danger, we can definitely become mama bears. And God can use that sometimes. But the more we let our claws show, the harder it is to get to reconciliation.
- Don’t take the place of your husband’s avenger.
Psalm 35 talks all about God being our avenger. When we put ourselves in that place, God doesn’t get to do His thing and sometimes we miss seeing Him bring a resolve to the situation in a way only He can. It is difficult to resist defending our actions, and sometimes the truth needs to be brought to light for justice to be served. My advice is to pray that God would cause that truth to come to light from another source besides you, his wife.
- Don’t overestimate the need for you to speak.
We accuse our husbands of being the “fixers” in the family, but I am just as guilty. I need to pray that the Lord will make me quick to listen and slow to speak. When I put myself in the place of listener, I am also more open to hear from the Lord so that when it is time for me to open my mouth, my words are living water (John 7:38) bringing life, hope, and refreshment.
- Don’t get in the way of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Even when the messenger does a lousy job of delivering a criticism and it is hurtful or exaggerated, there may be a nugget of truth that God wants to use to refine your husband. Once the hurt subsides, find ways that you can objectively ask about what God may be teaching him through it. Avoid nullifying the whole message just based on the sender. In the end, our becoming more like Jesus is what is most important to both you and your husband, so help him seek that.
- Do remind him of who God made him to be .
Remind him of the fruit that God has brought forth in his life. Remind him of the calling that
God has put on his life. Those things are Truth and they point his eyes towards the One who
gives life, restores and binds up the brokenhearted. It also leaves room for the Lord to work
through the criticism to make him more like Jesus, even if the messenger totally botched
- Do begin to pray that God would reveal any nugget of truth that He wants to use to make your husband more like Jesus.
When we have been in a hard season where criticism seemed like it was a bear trap shackled to our legs, I have prayed that God would redeem all things and let nothing be wasted. I didn’t want to have endured those hardships and gotten to the end, only to realize that there were things that God wanted to do in my life that I missed. I want those hardships to be used in God’s hands to make me resemble the image of my Father. While the messenger that delivered the criticism may have done it in a way that was totally sinful, God can use even that message to make your husband more into the image of Christ – more ready to do the next glorious thing that He calls him to.
- Do remind him that he is not alone.
Without fail, whenever we have been in a season where my husband has been criticized, it manifests in him feeling desperately lonely. Like there is no one willing to hold his hands up or help carry the mantle. Even when the criticism may only come from one cranky person sitting in the back row, it can overshadow the many ways that God is working through him, leaving him
feeling abandoned when right perspective isn’t seized. Your presence may be the only one that you can confidently affirm. Remind him that he isn’t alone. That God’s presence is in this with him and that you will always be his biggest cheerleader
- Do wait for him to ask you for your advice.
Again, speak less – listen more. When the Holy Spirit brings him out of the place of pain enough to see a glimpse of hope that God could redeem this, it is only then that he will be open to possible ways of navigating this stormy sea.
Remember that the position God has put you in is one of surprising power – the power of influence. You can influence him to seek Jesus’ face in humility and dependence. Or you can influence him to hold onto the hurt and anger that will only paralyze him in the mission God has called him to. Be brave. Be gracious. Be His.