Steve just couldn’t take criticism. The minute someone made an observation about something he did, it would stop him dead in his tracks. Then he would spend days processing what was said to him. He’d also vent to those he could trust and start to second guess everything he’d done recently or was thinking of doing in the future. It would take Steve a long time to work this out of his system. He would also try and figure out what was going on in the head of the person who challenged him or criticized him. Often the scenarios Steve would create in his mind had very little basis in reality.
One day, he was having lunch with a long-time friend. Somehow the conversation came around to the difficult people one has to deal with at work. Steve shared what happened to him a few days earlier.
His buddy said to him, “Steve, I’ve know you for how many years? You’ve always had a hard time with this kind of thing—handling criticism. The image of water rolling off a duck’s back certainly doesn’t apply to you! You make everything personal and all about you. And you’re always worrying about whether or not people will like you. Often when people don’t agree with you, especially at work, it’s not personal, and it’s not about you. You really need to let go of this stuff and try not to be so thin-skinned. If you’ll allow me to be blunt with you—and we’ve been friends a long time—you’re a very insecure person. You have no confidence in yourself. So, you end up wasting a lot of energy in fear and worry.
“As I get older, I have to admit, a lot of the things that used to drive me up a wall, I could care less about now. I’ve learned to pick my battles and stop wasting time on things that are really nonsense. That incident you just described for me—who cares? In a day or two it will be over. No one will even remember that it happened except you!”
One of the things that really helped me was to learn to ask the right questions when confronted with a situation. The question is not “do they like” or “will they like me.” The questions are, “What is being asked of me in this situation?” and even better, “What is God asking of me?”
Sometimes responding in the most mature way to a situation, or doing what is best for the other person, is saying or doing the thing that isn’t going to get the applause. Doing what is right might involve giving the answer the other person doesn’t want to hear. The thing is, we have to stop pretending. We have to stop acting like somebody we’re not. We have to be honest about ourselves and our desires.”
What is it that Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know mine…” He knows us. That’s a great place to start: Turning to Jesus and asking for the strength to stop playing games and to really have the courage to do things for the right reasons. Stop doing things just to please people and get applause. Start doing the things you know will be pleasing to God. That’s the way to start feeling better about yourself and being less thin skinned. Then when someone offers you a little bit of criticism, you won’t need days to recover. You’ll learn to put things in perspective and be more at peace with yourself.