Thursday, June 15, 2017

Daring Greatly

I knew it was going to happen and I feel like God has been preparing me for it.

But it still felt like I got punched in the gut.

I spent months working on a creative project. I put my heart and soul into it, pouring over details and trying to make everything special for the people investing in my project.   

Although it wasn’t perfect, I thought it all turned out wonderfully. I’m truly pleased with it as a starting point, but I know there were things I could have changed or improved. I’ve had a running list in my mind.

This project was my brave thing for this year. It meant stepping out of my comfort zone and asking people to pay for something I put together. My initial fears were that no one would. But God provided the people and I’m so thankful.

I also knew it would be a brave thing to survey and ask for people’s (anonymous) feedback. Again, I felt that God has been preparing my heart for when the criticism would come.

And it came.

So far I’ve heard lots of positive comments and a few helpful suggestions for next time. But recently one woman completed the survey and marked poor on all but one question. She also gave me a list of about 20 ways my project and I fell short of her expectations.

I’m surprised I didn’t cry after I read her words, it felt like I got punched in the gut. She verbally beat me up for not meeting her expectations. She judged and shamed my mothering and my teaching. She basically condemned my work.

I’m not sure what she was expecting, but apparently, she took nothing away because she had not one positive thing to say.

I spent all day processing her words, trying to wrestle with any truth and push away what wasn’t.

Again, I feel like God has been preparing me for the critics through certain things I’ve been reading and I wanted to share them with you.

This time it was my turn, but as we all do things that are brave, creative and vulnerable, we are all going to face the critics, curmudgeons and their condemnation. Let’s remember these things when we face them again:

1.     Christy Wright in The Business Boutique (emphasis mine):

“You know what? I’m not fighting for the people who didn’t get it, who it didn’t connect with. I am fighting for everyone who did get it . . . I’m fighting for them.

We want to grow our business, increase our reach, and make more of an impact, but the reality is that, as we increase our exposure, we increase something else: the haters. With more Facebook likes and blog views come more critics and complainers. It’s not personal; it’s just how things scale. More people means more supporters and more critics.

When someone is mean, when someone doesn’t get it, and when someone tries to tear you down for no reason, remember that you’re not fighting for them. You are fighting for the ones who need what you have to offer. Those are the ones who get a say and the ones you should listen to. You can listen to your critics or you can listen to your calling, but not both. The critics will distract your efforts and destroy your progress.

But the opposite is also true. The more that you listen to your calling, the more the critics will fade into the background. Whatever you focus on increases. When you listen to the right people, you’re able to focus your attention on the ones you’re fighting for.”

2.     I’ve also read and reread Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

3.     Listening to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” can also help to make a girl feel better! ;)

You know what? This criticism has actually been a good thing for my personal and business development. It reminds me that we’ll get the criticism when we’re out there doing something! If we were sitting at home, not taking risks or putting our time and passion into things that matter, we wouldn’t hear from the critics.

It also brought out some good conversations with my husband, friends and my kids. My daughter often asks for a story at bedtime. The day I heard from my critic, I decided to tell her about that instead. The next morning, she wanted me to talk to my son about it too. I told them that when people try to bring us down, we must remember to be resilient. We can either believe them and the mean things they say about us or we can believe God and what He says about us.

I love 1 Thessalonians 5:24: The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. I’m going to believe that!

Yes, being brave and opening yourself up to the critics is risky and people can be downright mean, but it means you’re out there! Don’t let criticism stop you. Let it make you better and propel you to keep going.

The day after I read the harsh words, I woke up feeling much better, knowing that even though this woman figuratively punched me in the gut, she’s not going to stop me. I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay. I’m not fighting for her or people like her. I’m fighting for the people who get me and get that I’m trying to help us all look a little more like Jesus.

Thanks for listening. Thank you for getting me. Thank you for being my friends. I’m right here with you. Let’s dare greatly together! He makes us brave!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Expectancy, Not Expectations

Hello Everyone,

May was a busy month for me, how about you? It’s hard to believe it’s June, the year is about halfway over!

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship and how much we need friends in our life. I love how God created us for connection, that He wired us to live in relationship with other people.

But have you ever had a friend disappoint you? Have you ever been the one to disappoint a friend?

Yes and yes. We have all been on both sides of this coin. Life is messy and busy and sometimes friends let each other down.

I’ve learned, though, that the best way to handle these friendship disappointments is to manage my expectations. When we have a list of expectations of things our friends should be or do for us, sooner or later, they are bound to miss the mark. So are we.

I recently read The Shack and loved this quote. I think it’s the key to managing our expectations in any relationship, not just friendship:

“Mack, if you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is an expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else.
But what happens if I change that expectancy to an expectation—spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and what, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend.” —The Shack, Page 207

Expectancy, not expectation. I love that, don’t you?

It relieves a lot of pressure to perform, people please or live up to other people’s ideas of what a good friend/wife/sister should be. We can just be who we are and love people for who they are, not for what they do for us.

God never intended us to fill the deep places in each other’s hearts for fulfillment, purpose or validation because that is something only He can do. Friends are meant to enhance each other’s lives, not be each other’s lives.

So instead of looking for our friends to meet our expectations, hopes or longings, we instead wait with expectancy for the blessings we experience from being together and being there for each other.

When we have this mindset, it changes things.

When a friend has to cancel plans, when they forget your birthday or when they’re not there when you hoped they would be, you have two choices:

  • If you choose expectations, you’ll be mad at your friend and might even build a wall between you. You’ll likely start to keep track of the ways she messes up.
  • If you choose expectancy, sure, you’ll be disappointed, but you’ll understand that things happen and will look forward to the next time you can connect.

Expectancy, not expectations. Although spelled similarly, they are vastly different ways we can go about friendship.

For a previous post I've written about friendship, click here.