On Growing Thick(er) Skin


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
'Jumping' photo (c) 2011, Jenny - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

It’s no secret that blogging requires thick skin

Each post subjects your ideas, interests, and feelings to the scrutiny of other people, who through the anonymity of the internet are more likely to tell you exactly what they think. A single post might lead some to call you a hero and others to question your humanity, when the rather unglamorous truth of the matter is, like everyone else, you’re a fallen image-bearer just trying to make sense of the world. 

I used to be incredibly sensitive to criticism. A couple of red marks on an essay or a gentle critique from a friend would be enough to render me into a curled-up ball of insecurity and tears. So one of the many reasons I love blogging is that it has forced me into a healthier relationships with feedback.  With Dan’s help, I’ve started owning what I have to say and I’ve stopped taking criticism so personally. I’ve become less swayed by the reaction of other people, less vulnerable to the ups and downs of public opinion.

In short, I’ve grown thicker skin. 

Last week brought an unusual amount of criticism and praise my way because I took a controversial stand against something I felt was wrong.  At times I felt supported. At times I felt betrayed. At times I second-guessed my decision to speak up. 

After one particularly intense day, I sunk into the living room couch with a glass of wine and pretended to watch Jon Stewart on Hulu.  Tears started gathering in my eyes, but I quickly wiped them away and said out loud to myself, “Nope. Not gonna let it bother me. If I’m going to make a difference in this boys club of an industry, I gotta grow a thick skin.” 

Dan, who was sitting next to me, paused the show, put his arm around me, and said. “Yeah, but you don’t want it to grow too thick, hon. If you become completely immune to criticism, you’ll turn into the very thing you’re working against, and if you become impenetrable, well then you won’t be Rachel anymore.” 

This of course released the floodgates and I had a good ugly cry about the whole thing. 

I hope I always remember Dan’s words because if there’s one thing more powerful than a person with thick skin, it’s a person with thick skin and a tender heart. 

What I want more than anything for myself and for the future of the Church is to be part of a generation of Christ followers who are both strong and humble, resolved but open to criticism, idealistic yet willing to listen, determined yet tenderhearted.  If we are serious about ending poverty, sharing the gospel, championing women, and living like Jesus, we’ve got to both toughen up and unclench our fists. 

We’ve got to grow thicker skin…but not too thick. 

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In what ways have you had to learn to deal with criticism? What have you learned about growing thick skin that isn’t too thick?

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