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How to Respond to the Harshest Critic

  • Elisa Pulliam
  • Published Dec 18, 2015
How to Respond to the Harshest Critic

Why is it that we seem to notice every flaw, missed step, and wrong turn and never seem to appreciate what we do right? It’s as if we’re looking to put ourselves down before someone else gets a chance. Meanwhile, we put on labels we were never meant to wear.

You’re not good enough. You’re too much. What a fool. Ugly. Rejected.

I’ve worn all these labels over various times in my life. I felt like I wasn’t good enough when I didn’t get a single college acceptance letter before my friends. My propensity to the melodramatic has often been met with an eye-rolling, leaving me to feel like I’m just too much.

I’ve made foolish decisions about relationships, commitments, and investments. Ever since being teased in elementary school, I’ve battled “ugly” when I look the mirror. Yep, even long after discovering that what God makes, He declares beautiful.

There’s no harsher critic than ourselves.
Of course, the enemy of God is right there affirming those false identity statements in an effort to hold us back from the abundant life God has promised (John 10:10).

If only I had know. Well if he would have said something. If I came from a different family. If I finished that degree. If she gave me the job. If he didn’t walk out.

We unconsciously participate in this dance of denial, blame, and shame with the devil when we should be taking hold of the grace-filled hand our Savior extends our way.

Imagine what would happen if we put an end to believing the enemy’s lies? What if we took those accusing, critical thoughts and put them to the test by asking questions like these:

1. What would God have to say about this belief?

2. According to Scripture, is what I believe the whole truth, a half-truth, or a lie?

This intentionality about our beliefs is what I call the Trap and Transform principle, which I describe in detail in my book Meet the New You. It is simply the process of taking captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5) and considering it in light of the Truth so that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). I began living according to the Trap and Transformprinciple after emerging from a season of counseling, where I learned how to take what I felt about my past and present day issues and line up my beliefs with the truth. The result? God set me free from a life marred by hurt, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness as I learned how to walk in His grace and truth. Want to know what else happened? I discovered a peace and joy like I never had before along with how to temper my reactions in light of an eternal perspective.

Being thoughtful about our-self talk, as well as what we receive from others, is absolutely necessary in the battle against our inner critic. When we get honest with God about what we believe while asking Him to show us what is true, we can diffuse the critical nagging voice and even the impact it has on others. It’s most definitely a counter-cultural way of living. Just spend a few minutes watching TV, browsing social media, or listening to the conversations at a gathering, and you’ll witness a barrage of critical comments. We like to justify it, saying it’s constructive criticism in our reality TV world where everyone’s opinion is expected to be aired at any moment. No wonder we feed our souls nothing but criticism as we look at our reflection in the mirror of this world.

It’s not that criticism in and of itself is bad, but rather the purpose of it that matters most. There will always be something in us worth improving, which means we need to notice what’s wrong in order to fix it. However, the fixing needs to happen under the grace of God and in light of His truth, as we cling to the promise that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

He’s not yet done with you.

He’s not yet done with that person you so deeply love.

He’s not yet done with your church.

He’s not yet done with your community.

He’s not yet done with this world.

He is not done.
God is continually working behind the scenes, redeeming and restoring all that the enemy seeks to devour and destroy. We’ll experience the impact of that spiritual battle no doubt. Those of us with a discerning eye may see what’s really going on and be compelled to speak up, but may I suggest we should pray first and seek God on His perspective. And then, when we do speak, we need to consider our timing and delivery. As I say to my daughter when she’s in a heated situation with her sister, “It’s not that what you’re saying that’s wrong, but your harshness blocks the truth you’re trying to get across.”

Oh yes, my friends, we’ll miss steps and sin outright. We’ll be hurt and hurt others. We’ll turn from God in those very times when we knew better. All these moments may have the right to call out the inner critic, but we need to do so in light of the truth.

In our less than perfect humanity we have a God who is more than enough.
Imagine, then, if we chose to speak to ourselves and others with Spirit-led, grace-overflowing, truth-filled response of honest but helpful criticism?

Maybe then, the harshest critic within each of us would fade away and we can truly start enjoying the fullness of this life God has promised.

Elisa Pulliam is the founder of, serves as the Executive Director of, and is a life coach, coach trainer, and speaker. However, she considers her greatest roles as wife to Stephen and mom to four amazing children at their home in Pennsylvania. She is also the author of Meet the New You: A 21-Day Plan for Embracing Fresh Attitudes and Focused Habits for Real Life Change (WaterBrook Press).Connect with Elisa at

Publication date: December 10, 2015