Trolls on the Bridge: How to Keep Negative Feedback from Shredding Your Heart

I recently read this quote by Allen Arnold and it resonated deeply. “If God is pleased with your latest creation but the world ignores it, how do you feel? The answer reveals who you are creating for.”

thumbs up

Excellent question. I fall into this trap far too often. I hope people like what I’ve written. This new blog was a step out of my comfort zone. Will people read it? Will they like it? This doesn’t even have to revolve around writing. This could be about any situation. The secret fear is, “Will they approve what I offer? Will they approve of me?”

So many of us say we are living, breathing, creating, and doing for an Audience of One, but the truth is, when our creative offering is ignored by the masses, we suffer hurt. Disappointment. We may even feel insignificant or devalued. Such a reaction tells us the true condition of our heart.

What’s worse? Not having our creation ignored but having it, or perhaps even our very person, attacked. Ouch.

ecclesiastes 7 5Let me stop here and say I’m not talking about constructive criticism, although for some, any kind of criticism feels like destructive criticism. Wearing our feelings on our sleeve about something we create isn’t healthy. One of the best pieces of advice I heard early on when beginning my writing career came from Tamera Alexander. She said, “What you create, whether it be your book, your story, an article, whatever it is…that thing is not your baby. It is a product. You are not what you create.”

Great advice, and an excellent way to keep the sting from burning too deeply when criticism need be applied. And trust me, it will. No one is born the expert in their field. No one.
Constructive criticism is intended to build up. It’s based on love and wants the best for the other person. Destructive criticism wants only to harm. Its intent is to destroy, and is usually birthed out of jealousy or fear. So when you’ve been hit with negative feedback, it’s important to take a step back and analyze the source. There are four types of feedback sources.

  1. Lovers  

flatteryThese guys love everything you produce, say, and do. They love you. More of you 24-7. Of course, they would never dream of giving you negative feedback so they aren’t pertinent to our chat today, but beware. You should still take their gushing praise with a grain of salt. Don’t let it give you a big head. “…a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:28)

 

 

  1. Critics

More or less, critics are people who are educated in the creative product you’ve released. They have opinions that are subjective but carefully thought out about why they do or don’t like something, how aspects could be improved, etc. Good critics should be about the product, not the person behind it. Constructive criticism from a critic can be extremely valuable. Just remember their opinion is subjective.

  1. Trolls

trollAh, here is where things get messy. Trolls will hit you with all kinds of negative feedback. They don’t like your product because blah, blah, blah. Some criticisms may seem legit, some utterly ridiculous and hurtful. In the midst of their barbs, it may become apparent to you these guys have never even read or used your product. What?!

Trolls are internet drama feeders. They love stirring up fights because they find it amusing. They will go after your creation, and possibly, after you just for the shock value of it. As a friend of mine recently put it, “Trolls are just looking for a goat to cross their bridge.” Someone to torture. Someone to mess with. Although it seems they are quite hostile towards you, they are probably indifferent. They really don’t care about you at all, one way or the other. They are just looking for some drama-induced excitement in their too-dull lives. feed the trolls

Word of advice: Don’t feed the trolls. Do not engage with them. Don’t try to make them like you. They are out for one thing: drama. You feed a troll, and they’ll keep hanging around the bridge. Starve a troll, and they’ll look for some other place to feed.

  1. Haters muppet haters

As a recovering people pleaser, this one hurts, but it’s true. There will be some people that hate you. There I said it. Let it sink in. They will hate you for no other reason than that. It’s usually based out of some sort of jealousy, but perhaps not. Maybe it’s a wound they are struggling with and you’re an easy target. Whatever the reason, there will be people that don’t like you. They will say the meanest, most nasty, soul-cutting things to you. You’ll have a choice in that moment whether to believe what they say about you and your worth or reject it. (Remember this: a lie can only harm us if we believe it.)

john 15 18You are not what you create. You were lovingly fashioned and knit together by God, designed for a purpose before you ever drew a breath. Haters spew venom because they have no love nor light. Trolls linger on bridges, but none of it changes one thing between you and the Author of Life.

Press on. Pray for those who hurt you. Love with abandon, even those trolls and haters. They must hurt deeply to have so much acid spill out. Here’s a thought: every time you’re confronted with hurtful feedback, instead of lashing back or wallowing in tears, as we all so often want to do, bow your head and say a prayer for that mean person. Talk about agape love in action.

After all, trolls need Jesus too.

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Lie #3: “I’m Worthless” and Other Labels

worthless

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at our enemy and the lies he tells us. As a refresher, we’ve discussed Lie #1 “God’s Main Concern is my Happiness” and Lie #2 “If my life were different, I would be different”. This week’s lie seems to be an arrow flung with far too much frequency by the enemy and one believed by far too many of God’s children. Lie #3: “I’m worthless.”

Whenever I’m teaching at retreats about the enemy’s lies and I come to this one, I ask the ladies to raise their hands if they have believed lie #3 at some point in their lives. Without fail, every hand in the room has gone up. Why? count of monte cristo quote

After listening to story after story, one common denominator seems to resonate through most of these women’s issues…someone at some point gave them a label that stuck.

Names have power. Nicknames can be fun but when nicknames turn into labels, it can be a problem. Let me explain.

I recently conducted a Facebook and Twitter poll asking my friends what their nicknames were growing up. Some of my favorites were Snicklefritz, Squeaky, Casper, Noodle, Idgit, and Sassafras. Cute. Sweet. Then things took a twist.

Soon people started sharing their, uh, less flattering nicknames…monikers like Tubby, Fatso or Motor Mouth to name a few.

Names can turn into labels. Labels stick. Soon we begin to believe the lie that we are what the label advertises.

peachesTo put it another way, labels usually tell us what’s inside, right? If I walk into my pantry and grab a can that bears a label of plump, juicy peaches, I don’t expect to open the can and find black eyed peas inside. The label system works great for canned foods and organizing closets, but not for defining our own worth.

Some of us are slapped with a label just once, maybe twice by some cruel person and we believe the lie. We mistakenly believe we are what the label advertises.

“That boy said I’m ugly. So therefore I must be…

*unattractive to everyone.”

*I’ll always be unattractive.”

*I’m unattractive on the inside too.”

*No one will ever want me.”

On and on the lies go.

A dear friend of mine was told from the time she was young that she was unwanted and it wreaked havoc in her life. Why? Because she believed it. A lie is only detrimental if we believe it.

Maybe you have a label stuck to you that refuses to come off. Maybe it’s “Unwanted”. “Unlovable”. “Black Sheep”. “Depressed”. “Divorced”. “Loser”. “Mess up.” “Victim”. “Condemned.” “Never Good Enough”.

You are more than the label someone has given you.

value and worthThis lie of feeling worthless is based in rejection. Sometimes it may be more than words or feelings. You might have lived through the slicing pain of divorce. A nasty break-up. Perhaps you’ve been rejected by your family, mistreated by your coworkers, or fired from your job. For some, the most devastating blow of all is being forgotten by your children. For others, you might be dealing with the mess from your own consequences and poor decisions and you just need a little grace from people unwilling to give it.

Here’s the thing…your worth does not change based on someone’s ability to see it. 

Consider a priceless work of art. A Van Gogh painting. Pretend you are walking down the street and are stunned to see an original, authentic Van Gogh painting carelessly tossed into a dumpster. Why would anyone do such a thing? Clearly the owner had no idea of its worth. trash

Did the painting’s worth change based on its location or who owned it? No. Its value remained the same. This scenario only shows us the ignorance of the person who discarded it.

Don’t let someone who doesn’t understand your value define your worth.

As always, we need look no farther than Jesus. The Prince of Peace knows exactly what it’s like to be labeled worthless and rejected. 1 Peter 2:4 says this:

“Come to Him [the risen Lord] as to a living Stone which men rejected and threw away, but which is choice and precious in the sight of God.”

Did you catch that? Men rejected and threw away Jesus…the Creator, Redeemer, Savior, their Hope and King. There aren’t enough books in the world to contain all the words to describe the worth of Christ, yet men still rejected Him and threw Him away. It said nothing of His worth, only the inability of the people to understand that God Himself had come down to them. They didn’t understand the treasure they’d been given.

You are precious to God. He loved you so much He would have rather died than leave you in the dark. If you’re still battling lie #3 in your mind, you need look no further than the cross. jesus

Jesus didn’t die for junk. You are immeasurably priceless and loved by the God of the universe. When He gave up His life for you, He gave your life its worth.

Never let anyone tell you differently.

An Open Letter from a Recovering People Pleaser

I’ve had to learn some things the hard way. After years of exhaustion, of disappointment, of hiding behind my masks, of dark depression, I’ve learned that people pleasing may always be a battle for me. A daily battle. It’s a lie that I believed for far too long—mainly, that approval and love are the same thing. However, as God has peeled back layer after layer of my masks and choices, He has helped me understand that approval and love are not the same thing at all. They are, in fact, polar opposites.

approval vs love

I‘m finally starting to realize my worth in His eyes. I’m tired of shackling myself to others’ expectations when obeying Him is all that matters. I’m tired of being sucked into a spiral of exhaustion when He has promised me rest. I’m tired of living like everyone else’s opinion of me is more important than His. I have no desire to place people, and their approval, as my idol, my focus or my hope any longer.

Jesus created me unique for a special, defined purpose, yet for years I gave away that gift and tried to morph and remake myself in a poorly constructed mold, praying I would be accepted. Loved. Esteemed.

It failed. Over and over again. lecrae

Today, I stand here knowing I am loved by the Creator of the Universe. He sees me. He calls me His daughter. He knows my broken, messy self yet still delights in me. And although He has healed and transformed me in immeasurable ways, there is still a broken place inside me that fights the desire for human approval.

With all that being said, I confess that being a recovering people-pleaser is hard work. It’s a choice I make each day. I have to be proactive—not just for my sake, not just for my family’s sake, but as a child of the King.

Here is my prayerful plea to you…

  1. Respect my boundaries.

Boundaries, saying no, and everything that entails is extremely hard for me. So when I give you a no, even if it sounds timid or unsure, don’t press. Saying no is quite literally the most difficult thing for me to do. It takes an incredible amount of courage and the only reason I would say no is because I’ve learned how much pressure I can take before I crack. I have no desire to collapse in on myself like a dying star. Not again.

no

I want to be able to help you in the future, but if I don’t find a proper balance of my energy, time and resources, I won’t be able to help anyone. My no, although difficult for me to say, and possibly just as hard for you to hear, benefits us all in the long run.

  1. Manipulation and spiritual abuse are no longer welcome.

Saying you’re disappointed in me for refusing to help you is manipulation. I may have collapsed under these tactics in the past, but no longer. Telling me God told you that I would be great for a certain job is well and good, but unless God has told me the same thing, my answer will be no. I have a living, breathing relationship with Him, just as you do. When this life is over, I will answer to Him and Him alone…not a jury of my peers.

pleasing god vs jury of peers

Please don’t shame me, tear me down or hurt me if my need to say no muddles your well-laid plans. Trust me, I have already tortured myself enough with the reality that I can’t undertake the task, despite my desire to have your approval. Lashing out only makes me resentful about the request, angry at you and angry at myself for being manipulated. I cannot be your rescuer.

  1. Whenever I say ‘yes’ to something, I will have to say ‘no’ to something else.

I have learned that I can’t be everything to everybody. My family is a ministry too—the most important one God has given me. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, a limited amount of resources and a limited amount of energy. My relationship with God is my priority, then my family. Other things, special projects or passions find their place as God moves and directs through different seasons. Sometimes saying ‘yes’ to something that might be good leaves little room to embrace God’s best just around the corner.

  1. Be patient with me when I have to buckle down on boundaries.

boundariesSometimes I turn off the phone because the requests never stop. My battery is empty. My nerves are frayed. My family is demanding my attention. I may have to say ‘no’ or request extended time to pray over a matter. I may even have to turn down several major things that I would like to do because God is telling me they aren’t in His plans…at least, not now.

If I have to squeak out a string of no’s, I’m not trying to sound like a two-year old. I’ve merely learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to fall back into the same old cycles that nearly became my undoing. I must choose wisely. To be healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually, I may need to take a step back from time to time. Be patient. It’s only for a season.

  1. Love me, whether I perform well, poorly or not at all.

The common ground sought by people pleasers the world over is this: we have a desperate need to feel loved. We search for unconditional love in conditionally minded people. We crave approval, thinking we are unlovable without it.

For too long I sought my worth based on what people told me about myself. But all that matters is what God thinks—and He loved me so much, He gave His own life to redeem me from the land of darkness. jeremiah

It doesn’t matter whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst…His love never changes. And I’ve discovered this amazing truth is what my heart has been searching for all along.

I will fail you. I’m human. I stumble and fall. Despite my failures, my heart has found peace and contentment in my Savior, and I love the friends He has given to make the journey even more joyful. All I ask is that you love me despite my messy attempts to fly.

With God’s grace, I’ll love you the same.

In true people-pleasing fashion, I ask—is that okay?

Untied Shoelaces: Insecurity’s Scream

I could hear the fight from the trail below me as I climbed Pinnacle Mountain. Actually, everyone in the vicinity of the snaking path could hear the epic battle of wills between the frustrated father and his stubborn son on the crowded mountainside.

“Son, I mean it. Stop and tie your shoe.”

“No, I don’t want to.”

“You’re going to trip and get hurt.”

Silence as the determined boy marched past his father.

“Ethan, I mean it. Stop right now and tie your shoe. It’s an order.”

“I won’t!”

By now, the father is so angry he’s almost screaming. “Fine! If you fall and break your neck, it won’t be on me!”

Little Ethan huffed. “I’d rather break my neck than stop and tie my shoes.”

I could almost hear the exhausted father ripping his hair out at the roots. “Why? Why on earth won’t you just stop and tie your blasted shoe?”

Little Ethan turned, a scowl on his freckled face. “If I stop, everyone around us will think that I’m tired! That I’m a wimp! I’m not going to stop and let them think I’m not tough enough to climb up this mountain!”

The father scratched his head. “Maybe they’ll just think you needed to tie your shoe.”

Ethan shook his head. “No, it’s not worth the risk. I’d rather fall than anyone think that I’m a wimp.”

That, my friends, is rampant insecurity on display.

Have you ever been there? Insecurity makes us jealous. It makes us control-freaks. It causes us to wallow in suspiciousness. Insecurity births braggarts, fits of temper, infidelity, needing constant validation or the inability to be happy unless everyone around us is happy. Its nagging voice makes us think the worst of others, assigning them motives that don’t exist. In short, insecurity causes us to do the stupidest, and sometimes, most harmful things imaginable…not just to ourselves. It colors and stains every single relationship in our life.

Boiled down to it’s most fundamental existence is this: insecurity is a lie from Satan that screams, “You’re not good enough.”

 insecurity is loud

There is no louder scream than insecurity.

And there is no greater display of insecurity than when we compare ourselves to others. Have you ever heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”? It’s true. Painfully so.

In my own life, these kinds of refrains are common: “If I could just sing like Mariah Carey… If I could only write like Francine Rivers… If I could just speak like Beth Moore…if I was as funny as Tim Hawkins…

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

The problem with insecurity in the life of the child of God is that it devalues a person He’s made for a glorious purpose. You.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body: all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) Before you ever took a breath, God had a distinct plan for your life and that plan did not include having you pretend to be someone else.

The world already has a Mariah Carey, a Francine Rivers, a Beth Moore and a Tim Hawkins. The plan for your life is distinct for you.

If you’ve been inspired to write a song, rejoice. God gave that unique idea to you. If a story is inside of you just begging to come out, be glad. For He gave that story to you. If you fear you are royally messing up as a parent and that things will never get better with your children, take a deep breath. He entrusted those precious lives to you.

My friends, it’s time to silence the screams of insecurity and replace them with God-worth.

God-worth is knowing Who we belong to. It’s grasping hold of the truth that Jesus thought you were so valuable, He went to the farthest lengths possible to save you. He would have rather died, died, than leave you in the dark.

That is true love. And it makes each of us more precious than all the silver and gold the world could contain.

Insecurity screams, “I’m not as good as _________.” But having a healthy God-worth says, “Another person’s talents and abilities does not diminish my own.” Insecurity shouts, “I have to be perfect or no one will accept me.” God worth whispers, “God’s unconditional love for me never wavers, whether I’m at my best or scraping bottom at my worst.”

If you’ve given your life to Jesus, you’re redeemed. Protected. Fought for. Sheltered. Precious. An heir. Royalty. Loved.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Cling tight to that truth, my friend.