Dealing With Criticism

Steve and I were watching television recently, and he criticized me for some small issue.

Because I can still slip back into being sensitive to criticism due to childhood traumas, I felt a stab in my heart. I was tired of criticism and trying to get over it.

Steve and I both have had a problem with criticizing each other and being sensitive to criticism, but I wanted us to be free. I’ve prayed and prayed about this, but so far we still slide back into the battle of remembering to say kind instead of cutting words.

Even though I wanted to take up my criticism sword and swing it right back at my husband, I didn’t.

Instead I recalled a saying I heard years ago: “It takes twelve compliments to get over one criticism.”

In the past I realized I would subconsciously embrace the twelve compliments declaration thinking that it would take awhile before I could feel good about myself after a criticism. I even went around fishing for compliments to somehow prove to myself that I wasn’t as bad a person as critics like my husband or children proclaimed. And what if my husband or other critics gave several criticisms in one sentence? Did I need thirty-six compliments to make up for that?

That thought dragged me down to the pit. And no wonder I often felt I was in one. I was letting criticism really get to me.

It didn’t seem to matter that in our 38 years of marriage this was a common occurance and that I had an understanding of why my husband engaged in the behavior. I shouldn’t be taking it personally, I thought, but I was, and it hurt.

How can this vicious cycle of criticizing each other be stopped? I wondered.

Give yourself twelve compliments right now, was the next thing that came to mind.

I grabbed a piece of mail and on the back of an envelope I wrote: I’m compassionate, I’m intelligent, I’m friendly…”

It’s amazing how quickly I felt better. In a flash I was back to my pre-criticism state. In the past when feeling vulnerable, I would have played the criticism over and over in my mind—sometimes for days or weeks.

I was feeling good about this discovery until Steve and I went to the store yesterday. For some reason, he was in a frustrated mood, and he dealt with this by barraging me with criticisms while we shopped. I confess I’ve done the same to him on occasion.

I wanted to try out my “give yourself twelve compliments” method again, but when the criticisms started piling up, I felt overwhelmed and upset. By the time I got home I was worked up, and when we got in the door I criticized Steve for being so critical.

That was a mistake.

We worked it out, and by the end of the day Steve and I were back to being sweet and kind, but it took awhile. I wasted a lot of one day caught up in self-pity and thinking I could fix this habit in my husband with my words. What I discovered was that my “give yourself twelve compliments” method didn’t work.

What did work is to turn to God’s Word, which is filled with “compliments” and promises and statements that go against any criticism that people may lay on us. Just these words from Psalm 91 lifted me so much as I realized that no criticism from anyone on this earth could change how God feels about me or perceives me—a truth I need to be reminded of again and again.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him and show him my salvation.” (14-16 NIV 1984)

Steve and I will keep working on being more gentle with our words and building each other up instead of tearing one another down. And I’ve discovered saying gently, “I feel sad over that criticism” is OK.

But we need the Lord’s help to do this. With we humans it seems criticism comes naturally but building up is a learned skill. Sometimes I think the enemy whispers criticisms in our ears to say to our spouses and others. If we are not alert, we just blurt them out.

What I know is that I can’t keep anyone from criticizing me. I’ve tried. But I can ask God to help me to stop criticizing, and teach me to respond to criticism in a godly way. Today and in the days ahead, I can choose not to take negative statements from others to heart and let them ruin my day or my life.

Another thing I know is that God uses criticisms to make me more like Jesus. I’ve got a ways to go.

How about you? Do you handle criticisms in a not-so-godly way? Turn to the Lord, and He will help you to be set free from an ungodly response to criticism.

Here’s a new song I found today that lifted me up.

“I Have A Shelter” by Sovereign Grace Music from the album “Come Weary Saints.”


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God’s Reminder of His Strength

The song, “Strong Enough” by Matthew West played on the radio as I drove to the beach for a jog after work this past Wednesday.

 In the past I had not jogged on my 12-hour work days on a psychiatric ward, but weeks earlier I discovered that it helped me to deal with the re-entry back into the “real world.” 

I parked the car and headed toward the beach where a glorious sunset featuring golds, oranges, and pinks presented itself to me. As I began my jog, I sang a Scripture line from Matthew’s song which was still running through my mind,

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

 How I needed those words at that moment as I felt I didn’t have enough strength to deal with pressures at work and ongoing conflicts with my husband. 

As I continued to sing those words, I luxuriated in the sound of the surf, the touch of the cool evening air on my skin, and the now-fading masterpiece painted across the sky. I thanked God for the privilege of living in Florida. 

Off to my right out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that some daytime beach-goers had left behind words they had etched in the sand. There were several sets of words there, but I didn’t take the time to read them as I jogged by. 

On my left were more words, and for some reason I decided to slow down to read them, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” I read as I jogged in place. 

Not only were the words the same ones I was at that moment singing, they were the same exact words. The words I had learned years ago were,

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV) 

When these major “coincidences” happen, I know God is trying to confirm a truth to me. What truth did he have for me? That He would give me strength to endure the pressures of a demanding job and he would give me grace to deal with every relationship in my life. 

As I continued on my jog with the words still echoing in my mind, I realized how often I try to do things in my own strength and hold to my own plan for how circumstances should work out. But God reminded me that it was OK to feel weak—that He would give me all the strength I needed as I depended on Him. 

It was His guidance that led me to jog on the beach after work to help with the transition to home after an exhausting work day.  

The next day I looked up “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I couldn’t find those exact words in any of the translations online. Perhaps the person who wrote that phrase in the sand had been listening to the same song earlier and had put down the songwriter’s paraphrase of that verse. 

All I know is that God wanted me to get the message of His strength, and so He repeated Himself using a beach-goer and an etching in the sand.

He is so good.




“Strong Enough” by Matthew West

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Peer Pressure by Destiny

Weeks ago my 10-year-old granddaughter, Destiny asked if she could be on my radio show. We’ll wait until summer, I thought, when she is out of school on taping day. But then a month ago, I found out March 28th would be the last taping of my show which would air on March 30th. Too bad, we sighed. Then we realized that Destiny would be out of school for spring break on March 28th. The Lord worked it out. So you can hear my interview with Destiny on Sunday, March 30th at 9:00am EST. Go to and press “Listen Live” or go to the archives later:

Even though my Hearts Set Free radio show is ending, the archives will stay up for awhile. After that they will be available on my website: My blog will still keep going as well as my Hearts Set Free Marriage TIp of the Week.

With each guest that I interview, I ask that they write a guest blog. Here is what Destiny wrote along with a little editing help from Grandma. She chose the subject of peer pressure. It was a revelation to me when she announced that peer pressure is fear pressure. I had never thought of it that way, but how true. Here’s Destiny…  


Peer pressure is fear pressure.

Peer pressure can happen when someone urges you to do something. For example, if your friends urge you to cheat on a test, that makes you nervous thus causing peer pressure.

Peer pressure also happens when someone gives in to bullying to fit into the group, so later they put pressure on themself by worrying, “Will the person who bullies bully me?”

One time my friend was being talked about by some of her friends. I put pressure on myself by asking myself, “Should I tell her that she was being talked about?” We went to those friends together and worked it out.

How do you deal with peer pressure?

You ask God.

You read the Bible.

You choose friends that urge you to do the right thing.

There is such a thing as positive peer pressure.

–Getting good grades.

–Giving gifts.

–Being kind with words and actions.

–Obeying the rules.

Different ways there is peer pressure to do the wrong thing:

–the way you dress.

–breaking the rules.

–movies you watch.

–music you listen to.


Ones I have not faced yet are:

–smoking cigarettes.

–having sex.

–taking drugs.

My plan on these is to walk away.

In my classroom I am able to not give in to bad peer pressure because I don’t want to let down my teacher by doing what I shouldn’t do. I don’t want to disappoint her.

One verse that helps me with peer pressure/fear pressure is 2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. (HCSB)

Saul was a part of peer pressure because he was involved when they killed Stephen.

And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. Acts 8:1 NIV

Saul–sin.  Paul–pray. 

Don’t forget on peer pressure:

Ask God.

Read your Bible.

Choose friends who urge you to do the right thing.













“Lose My Soul” by Toby Mac.




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Facing Fear Guest Blog


Today I have a guest post by Christin Ditchfield. I met her years ago at a writers conference, and she has been inspiring and encouraging me ever since. At the end of each of my Hearts Set Free weekly radio broadcasts, I have a truth presented by Christin via her radio spots called “Take It To Heart.” To hear my interview with Christin on Sunday, March 20, 2014 at 9:00am, go to and press “Listen Live.” We will be talking about fear, something I have battled most of my life. God has set me and Christin free from fear. He can do the same for you.  

Three Things That Facing Fear Has Taught Me by Christin Ditchfield

Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” – Mary Tyler Moore

All of my life, in one way or another I’ve battled fear – worry, anxiety, stress. It’s something I think every one of us must face. It affects us all, in different ways, at different times, in different seasons of our lives.

Looking back, reflecting on my own personal spiritual journey, I see three particularly important things I’ve learned that I’d like to share with you. Three things that have helped me and that I hope will be a help to you.

1. God used my fear to draw me to Him. Some of the sweetest, deepest, richest experiences I’ve ever had in my relationship with Him, the times when I have felt His presence most powerfully, when I have heard His voice most clearly, came about as a direct result of the suffering I endured. The desperation I felt. The determination to press in and grab hold of Him – only to find that it was He who’d grabbed hold of me.

2. It is possible to be set free from fear. Free from its stranglehold. Free from its domination and control. I’ve experienced it myself. I’ve been set free. Yes, sometimes I still feel fear, sometimes I still battle fear, sometimes I’m still tempted to fear, but I don’t live in fear. Not anymore. It’s hard to put into words the difference that makes.

3. When I feel afraid now, I see that as an alert, an indicator, or a warning.  It helps me know that something isn’t right. Either I am in some kind of danger and I need to be alert and on guard, or there are some heart issues going on that I need to deal with. Once again it brings me to the feet of Jesus.

The truth is that not all fear is bad. There is a healthy kind of fear … and a proper time and place for it. That heart-pounding sensation is meant to alert us when we’re in danger. It’s supposed to warn us when we’re about to engage in behavior that could put us in harm’s way.

The right kind of fear at the right time can keep us alive. But the wrong kind of fear – unhealthy, unbalanced fear – can keep us from living life the way God intended.

The Scripture tells us that there is one kind of fear that God wants us to have. One kind of fear He wants us to live in. It’s the best kind, the healthiest kind: what the Bible calls “the fear of the Lord.”

If you look up “fear” in the dictionary, you’ll find that fear can mean:

Awe. Wonder. Reverence. Worship.

What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12)

Proverbs 9:10 explains, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

When we choose to fear God – when we reverence and respect Him, when we trust Him and obey Him, when we love Him and serve Him – we choose to live in His will and under His protection.

And we don’t have to fear anything (or anyone) else.


Christin Ditchfield is an author, conference speaker, and nationally syndicated radio host, passionate about calling women to a deeper life – the life we long for, the life we were created for! She is the author of more than sixty-five books, including What Women Should Know About Facing Fear. Visit Christin’s blog at


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Greater Grace

Recently I heard a speaker talk about the term greater grace. He said that no matter what happens in our life, God’s grace is greater. His proclamation was based on James 4:6 which states:

But He gives a greater grace… (NASB)

Sometimes the issues in my life seem huge. I can feel overwhelmed and wonder if I will be able to continue to face them. As embraced this Scripture, I realized  there is only one way hardships of life can be faced effectively–with God’s grace.

Too often I’m busy trying to figure things out on my own—to discover a solution to all the problems that plague my soul. But the answer God gives me again and again is to depend on His grace.

As I pondered the idea of greater grace, the lyrics to an old hymn came to mind.

Grace Greater Than All Our Sin Lyrics: Written by Julia H. Johnston in 1911

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin. 

Next God reminded me of this truth about His greater grace.

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

I love the way that verse is spelled out in the Amplified Bible.

 But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Heather Bixler, a fellow blogger, writes this truth about God’s great grace:  “Our weaknesses may never go away but when we give them to God, His grace will turn them into something beautiful…”  

How often I have seen that happen in my life.

An all-time favorite hymn of many is “Amazing Grace” written by John Newton in 1779

Here is one of my favorite verses that promises God’s greater grace will carry me through.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

God’s greater grace will carry me through anything–if I would only receive it.

Is there something in your life that seems unbearable? Will you embrace the truth that God’s grace is greater than that trouble or heartache? Open your heart to receive His grace. You will be amazed at what follows that decision.

If you are going through grief that seems unbearable after a loved one’s death, check out my friend Sandy Sheppard’s blog.  You will be blessed.


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Alone With God

Lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of spending time alone with God.

I still battle giving God my undivided attention and regularly devoting time to focusing only on Him and being in His presence. If a married couple fails to spend time alone with each other, intimacy fades. The same is true with my Lord.

Scripture tells me that Jesus spent time alone with God. If He needed that, how much more do I?

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16).

Some of the obstacles that try to block my alone time with God are unworthiness, believing lies, distractions, and fears.

Here are some of the many blessings I’ve received during my time alone with my loving heavenly Father.

REST:Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28 NIV).

RELEASE: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

REFRESHING: The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul (Psalm 19:7). 

RESTORATION: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…(Psalm 23:2-3).

REJOICING: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … The Lord is near (Philippians 4:4-5).

RECONCILIATION: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently] (Luke 15:20 AMP)

RECEIVING:For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened. (Luke 11:10 AMP)

God promises in Psalm: 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,…” I want that, but even more I want to know God—really know Him–and have intimacy with Him, so how I live my life will bring Him glory.

I confess that too often I am enticed by the things of this world that try to draw me away from God. My prayer is that I will grow more and more in loving to spend time alone with God—like the writer of this hymn.

Alone with God Johnson Oatman, Jr.

When storms of life are round me beating,
When rough the path that I have trod,
Within my closet door retreating,
I love to be alone with God.

      • Refrain:
        Alone with God, the world forbidden,
        Alone with God, O blest retreat!
        Alone with God, and in Him hidden,
        To hold with Him communion sweet.

How about you? Do you have a hard time spending time alone with God? May God help you to develop this discipline that will improve every aspect of your life.


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I Am Safe

Lately as I thought about how to deal with feeling emotionally unsafe in a relationship, the Lord reminded me of this verse:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10 NIV).

Sometimes people can’t be trusted to respond in loving ways or accept me as I am, but as I trust the Lord I can feel safe. He is my protector, my refuge, the one who keeps me safe.

I’m realizing that one of my responses to feeling unsafe is to react with anger to those who lash out in anger toward me. That is not God’s way.

The bonus of depending on the Lord for emotional safety is that when I do this, I stop withdrawing love from others. I stop responding to hurt with hurting back. I grow in learning to love like Jesus.

Years ago I told a friend that I felt so afraid of being hurt further in a certain relationship. This is the verse she pointed out to me—one I had not read before:

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. (Proverbs 29:25 )

The Amplified version adds “and set on high.” What a promise that is—that God puts me above the danger zone. I no longer need to be afraid that someone is going to hurt me beyond repair.

Years ago when I was in counseling to overcome childhood hurts, I talked to my counselor about feeling unsafe in my home growing up. The feeling continued into adulthood in my own home with my husband. My counselor showed me that my sense of feeling safe was not to be in a physical dwelling but in being united to the Lord.

As I thought about this, Psalm 23:6 came to mind.

…through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place. AMP

 What a difference this promise has made in my feeling secure and safe with the Lord—no matter what’s happening around me.  

Psalm 91 is another place I’ve turned to, so I can embrace promises of safety.  Verse 1 has this promise:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no foe can withstand] AMP 

There are many more “you are safe” promises which follow in that powerful psalm.  

This week I’m praising God that I can feel safe as I maintain a vital connection to Him. How wonderful that His Word is filled with promises that assure me of this.

Are you feeling emotionally unsafe today? I pray you will turn to the Lord for your sense of safety. He alone is our safe refuge.

Listen to this song “Safe” by Phil Wickham for more assurance.

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