I was standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes. My mood was dark as I pondered a couple of mean spirited people in our church. "How could they be so critical," I said to myself. We were pastoring a large church in Australia, working hard, doing our best, and all this couple could do was find our faults. That was when I heard a voice in my head that I instinctively knew was the Lord speaking to me. This is what He said: "Don't give them permission to hurt you." I almost said, "I beg your pardon Lord." The words were so penetrating that I stopped washing the dishes and with my hands soaking in the soapy water I thought about what those words meant.
Too often, we take the words of other people to heart and we allow them to wound our spirit. But should we do that? Of course there are times when we need to heed the words of people, but they must be good people, trustworthy, and full of integrity or their words are not worth heeding.
So here is what I learned that day.
- We are the guardians of our own hearts - Yes, no one else has the guardianship of your heart or of mine. I cannot blame anyone else for my bitterness—I am the only one that can choose whether I allow anger and bitterness to permeate my soul. I considered this couple that were criticizing us and I realized they were not living lives that I respected, I did not trust them and neither did I consider them people of integrity. So the question was: Why was I allowing them to hurt me so deeply? I thought about their words for a moment and I realized there was no truth to what they were saying and so why give people I neither respected nor trusted any room in my heart and soul?
- Don't allow those words access to your heart - Yes, I know this is easier said than done. However, once you have considered what has been said and you know it is not true, you should let those words go, do not let them have access into your inner being. Don't ponder their words, don't repeat them over in your brain...let them go! If those words were critical and unkind then the best thing you can do is to ignore what was said. Just make the decision that you will not allow lies and untruths to access your heart.
- Make good choices along the journey - I look back at some of the people in my life that have tried to make our journey difficult. I don't dislike them, but I never waste time thinking about them either. One of the mistakes we make is when we keep bringing up old wounds and talking about the people that have hurt us—that does not help you in your journey. Make wise choices on a daily basis. Guard your heart and only allow people you love and trust to access those private spaces of our life. Do not give critical people any place in your heart.
- Live life to the full - Yes, the world and the church are full of good people. God is a good and faithful God and when people fail me I remind myself that my God has never failed or betrayed me. Don't allow your bad experiences with critical people to color your future. Move on! Today is a new day—live it to the full.
We have all been hurt by the unkind or critical words of someone somewhere. Remember that you are the guardian of your heart. Ensure that you do a good job protecting your heart and keeping it clean. Today is a new day, make sure you live it to the full.
I am and always will be,
recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,