When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Brené Brown
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5
As we practice the rising strong process, we will encounter the gap between our own strength and the emotionally resilient person we long to be.
In Psalm 23, the shepherd-king David poetically bridges this gap. He describes what it feels like to walk through life as a vulnerable human being AND also one who is deeply connected to God’s strength. It’s like being fed and cared for when you’re tired. It’s like going through death and darkness, while tethered to God’s light and life. It’s like God affirming you out loud in front of your critics and enemies.
In Rising Strong, the author describes a healthy pathway for dealing with the critics in our lives. It’s not as simple as NOT caring what people think. Criticism hurts; and sadly both loved ones and strangers will attempt to control us with criticism. We might try the tactic of “I don’t care what you think”, but that’s actually a form of emotional armor that will fail us. For me, the armor fails when I’m tired, my heart opens up and suddenly the hurt rushes in.
Brené Brown writes in Chapter 10:
When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. The solution is getting totally clear on the people whose opinions actually matter. On a one-inch-by-one-inch square of paper, I want you to write down the names of the people who really matter. This is a sacred little space. If you have more names than can fit on a square this size, you need to edit. These should be the people who love you not despite your imperfections and vulnerabilities, but because of them. When you’re facedown in the arena, these are the folks who will pick you up and confirm that the fall totally sucked, then remind you that you’re brave and they’ll be there to dust you off the next time. You should also include the people who are brave enough to say “I disagree” or “I think you’re wrong,” and who will question you when they see you acting outside of your values. I carry my square in my wallet.
I’ve learned that spiritual strength is something God forges in us as we do spiritual practices. The 1×1 square paper exercise is a spiritual practice for staying connected in the midst of criticism. So is meditating on Psalm 23, especially verse 5.
Bible scholar Howard Macy writes: In subtle and even surprising ways [The Psalms] show us the “real world,” they draw us ever steadily toward authentic wholeness, and they bring us to see and delight in the God who is with us.
So, who are the people on your 1×1 square and why?
Now picture yourself seated at the foot of a long dinner table with your trusted people seated on your right and left and God (Parent God, Sibling Jesus or Holy Spirit) at the head. The critics in your life are also at the table, but God and your trusted friends are in charge of this dinner, and God has provided food, drink and a place of belonging for everyone.
How do you feel about this picture? In what ways does it change your view of being criticized?
LORD God, help me get clear about the people whose opinions really matter.