Many years ago, I was serving on a team with someone who was making a very selfish decision that could hurt a lot of people.
They were wrong.
So I pushed back.
They tried to defend their position and it further exposed their inappropriate motives.
So I pushed harder.
And as I did, I could feel the moral high ground under my feet. I was certain that I was right. This feeling emboldened me to push more and more. My arguments became louder, more aggressive, and even turned personal.
At some point, I crossed the line from a loving rebuke to a hateful insult.
And now, I was wrong.
There didn’t seem to be any voices condemning me…except one – my inner critic.
After the meeting, I apologized to everyone present, especially to the one I had personally sinned against. They were so gracious and kind to me. They not only offered their forgiveness but incredible understanding. I got in my car to go home thinking that it was all over. And it was…until my head hit my pillow. An instant replay of the night started running through my mind. Feelings of shame, guilt, regret, and embarrassment washed over me just as strongly as they had earlier in the evening. I grabbed my phone and immediately texted another message of apology and regret to the person I offended. They assured me that it was over, they had forgiven me and had already forgotten it. I breathed a sigh of relief and laid back down. But the cycle of condemnation started all over again. Have you experienced that before? It seems as though our most embarrassing moments are somehow stored in our pillows. (Scientists should really be looking into that.)
But the reality was that after my many mistakes of the evening, no one was telling me I was a terrible person. No one was denying me forgiveness. No one was criticizing me. There didn’t seem to be any voices condemning me…except one – my inner critic.
Silencing Your Inner Critic
We all have an inner critic. For some that critic is more active than others, but it’s there all the same. And when we’ve made a mistake, or missed the mark, somehow it seems that our inner critic gets really loud and makes peace impossible for us.
You lay your head down. (“That comment was really uncalled for tonight.”)
You’re prepping dinner. (“Remember how hateful that attitude was?”)
You’re in worship. (“Should you really be singing those words after the week you had?”)
At times, that voice is loud and the condemnation crippling. But it’s not supposed to be that way for us. Jesus has come to set us free. Galatians 5:1 tells us that, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
The condemnation of our inner critic is a burden that we aren’t to live under any longer – we are free. Paul writes to the church in Rome, “There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Paul isn’t just referring to external condemnation, but also includes internal condemnation – the voice of your inner critic!
Is there any hope in silencing the condemning voice of our inner critic?
With Jesus, there is always hope!
The Woman Caught in Adultery
Jesus had an encounter with a group of religious leaders who brought a woman caught in adultery before him. They were attempting to trap Jesus by getting him to rule on what they should do to her in light of the law of Moses (John 8:1-11).
Think about this scene from the woman’s perspective. She messed up and she knows it. And now she has condemning voices all around her announcing her failure over and over again. She doesn’t defend herself because she can’t. She did mess up. She does deserve judgment.
Does this sound familiar? You mess up and you know it. And now you are surrounded by the condemning voice of your inner critic announcing your failure over and over again. And you have no defense because you know your inner critic is right. You did mess up. And you feel like you do deserve judgment or punishment.
Thank God that this woman’s encounter with Jesus doesn’t end there. What happens next is powerful. Jesus doesn’t ask her to defend herself or stand up for herself – she can’t, so He does. Jesus engages the condemning voices accusing her, and they walk away!
He then turns his attention to her, because He wants her to see that she’s free and so He asks her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
She responds, “No one, sir.”
And as if to solidify her freedom from all voices of condemnation, Jesus says to her, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
When Jesus stood for her, no voice of condemnation could stand against her. And now Jesus stands for us too!
So how do we silence the condemning voice of our inner critic? Bring your loudest voice to Jesus. When your inner critic begins condemning you, make it answer to Jesus.
In Psalm 143:12 King David wrote a prayer that can really help us in dealing with our inner critics. He wrote, “In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.”
David asks God to do what he can’t, which is to silence his enemies. We should ask God to do the same thing in our lives. The next time that inner critic gets loud, go to the Father and say, “This voice is loud and overwhelming. I can’t defend myself against it. I need you. In your unfailing love, silence my enemy.”
And in those moments may you, like the adulterous woman, look up and see not a single face of condemnation, but only the sweet face of Jesus.
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