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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Criticism (3)


Remove the Ink Stain

Kolleen Lucariello reminds us words wound us, but God doesn't want us to stay hurt. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE she shares a personal story about how the Lord helped her deal with her anger and pain.

“Sometimes,” Kolleen says, “words can leave a stain on a heart—like ink on paper.”

Oh yes. I (Dawn) dealt with horrible, painful words some 30 years ago. I cried for weeks! But I'm glad the Lord taught me the lessons Kolleen shares here.

Kolleen continues…

Within a few months of my wedding day, a letter arrived in our mailbox from a family member who decided my husband Pat needed help with a decision he and I were in the process of making. Of course, even though the letter was addressed to him, I read it.

That was when the words—which had been written in ink on notepaper—left a stain on my heart I was convinced could never be erased away.

Truthfully, for a very long time, I didn’t want it to be. 

The letter held words of criticism and words that hurt, and it also held my heart and mind for many months following its arrival.

I tucked it away in the drawer of our nightstand where it was within easy reach when I needed a reminder of why I was mad. Rereading it helped me remain steadfast in my anger, so I would read it almost every day—sometimes more than once.

Any moment I felt the grip on my anger begin to loosen, I would retreat to the bedroom nightstand, remove the letter, and read it over one more time.

Oh, what fire that little spark could ignite.

Until one day when I was advised to throw the letter away and I didn't want to throw it away. It felt good holding onto it. Or so I thought.

Until I finally threw it away.

I was surprised how much better I felt when it was no longer in my possession. Throwing it away, so it was no longer something I could hold physically and look at, released me from the stabbing pain I felt when I read that letter over and over again.

Why do we inflict pain like this upon ourselves? 

Next, I needed to stop rehearsing it over and over in my mind.

I had read that letter so many times it was memorized.

It was easy to access because it was stored like a file, and at any given moment I could search my memories filing system and retrieve it. I just needed the name of the offender to flow through my mind and boom—just like that—the file was pulled, revealing all misdeeds against the offender.

Then I began to sense it was time to delete the file. I knew this meant I needed to change the direction of my thoughts every time the words of that letter began to enter them.

That was a hard choice.

It was also a constant battle. But, I knew it was one that needed to be done if I were ever to be free from the pain of that letter.

It wasn’t enough to just delete the file and let it go.

I thought it was. I wanted it to be! However, the Lord revealed I would never truly be free until I was able to forgive. Ouch.

Extending forgiveness takes courage when you’ve been wounded.

God would never ask us to offer grace to others if He didn’t know we would benefit from it.

You upgrade your life when you . . .

1. Remove anything you are holding that keeps you tied to anger.

Holding on gives it power over you and the ability to become an idol in your life.

Remember, Jesus said to remove anything causing us to stumble (Matthew 5:29). And God has strong feelings towards idols.

2. Stop rehearsing the conversation or situation over in your mind.

"Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2-3 AMP).

3. Forgive.

The Word is clear that we are called to forgive. When we nurture hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with our relationship with God, well, then our Father will not forgive us (Matthew 6:15, AMP).

Where we set our mind matters.

Has your heart been stained by ugly words, accusations and insults that continually fill up your thoughts? Make today the day you find the courage to remove the ink stain.

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She’s a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. She desires to help others find their identity in Christ, one letter at a time. Find out more about Kollen on her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of imelenchon at Morguefile.


When Comments about Your Health 'Sting'

Lisa Copen, founder of Rest Ministries, knows a lot about suffering with health issues. Unfortunately, she also knows about insensitive comments. Here is her story in an encouraging Health and Relationships UPGRADE.

“We may find ourselves surprised to discover just how much we are the on the minds of loved ones who are around us,” Lisa says, “They may actually be concerned about us more than we admit in regard to our illness. So when they comment about our illness in a way that stings we are left wondering about their intentions.”

I (Dawn) have been there. I was ill with an "invisible" condition, and a friend's insensitive comment left me depressed. Has that ever happened to you? How should we respond?

Lisa continues . . .

We can try our hardest to not let the hurt feelings we experience bother us. And we can acknowledge their heart’s concern.

There are moments the “wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6). Perhaps the people we are counting on to be understanding are struggling to communicate their concern; and their comments might be interpreted all wrong.

It was 1993 when I received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. My life changed rapidly. Some people at church and work felt no reluctance in telling me their thoughts about my doctor’s diagnosis–which was: I was not old enough to have this in their ‘expert’ opinion.

As a 24-year-old young woman, living over a thousand miles away from the place I grew up, the decisions I was forced into making about treatment choices felt serious and overwhelming. I meticulously poured through brochures and paperwork researching medications, therapies and alternative treatments.

I went out of my way to see specialized doctors and compared different drugs and their side effects, with the long-term result of choosing not to use certain medication.

The mixed-up advice from people who had never even heard of my chronic condition felt like a personal attack on my level of common sense. My emotional side thought, “The nerve!’

I must admit, of those who casually shared insensitive statements, it was those who questioned the genuineness of my faith that hurt the most.

Have you experienced what Proverbs 18:2 says about a friend who “finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions”?

I researched the inspiring autobiographies of Christians who endured physically suffering: Joni Eareckson Tada and Dave Dravecky. They faced the same sort of comments and insults I did.

If strangers these heroes in the ministry of suffering didn’t have enough faith to be totally healed, what made me believe I was exempt?

I’ve also heard some rather derogatory comments, and it’s always a struggle to simply smile and say, “I appreciate your concern, but I don’t necessarily agree.”

Sometimes people want me to have a ministry for those who are already healed or a ministry that tries to “get people healed.” They expect me to use a certain formula they think God uses.

Personally, I just don’t have a passion for a ministry that focuses solely on healing. Many of those already are available. I would be thrilled to wake up tomorrow and find I was healed, but God has called me to a ministry where people are still sick today. I want to meet each individual wherever they are before they have experienced a healing. I want to be part of the ministry that stands by them if healing doesn’t comes this side of heaven.

Through the organization I began in 1996, Rest Ministries—for the chronically ill—I have ministered to many audiences, including pastors and chaplains, as well as those coping with invisible disabilities. But I am still vulnerable to being told, “If you had more faith, you would get healed.”

Frequently, people glance over the table of our resources and books and then say, “This is wonderful, but you should try ‘fill-in-the-blank-alternative-treatment-here,’ and then you would be healed. And then that could be your more helpful ministry!”

In some strange way, though I still to get upset with the limitations and degeneration of my disease, I am just beginning to understand 1 Peter 4:13. It speaks of considering it “pure joy to suffer" for Christ.

And I am not alone in this regard. Many people with chronic visible and invisible disabilities confess that, though they are not especially “joyful” about their circumstances, they have discovered life is more meaningful—even though bittersweet—due to the suffering they have experienced.

Yes. . . I hate pain! And I get tired of it. God does give us grace and endurance to get through another 24 hours. God provided the Israelites manna so they could live one more day, solely depending on Him (Exodus 16). I confess, like the Israelites, I have moments I want to complain, “L-o-o-r-d, I’m tired of the manna!”

As we grow closer to God, the remarks people say will become much less important. They will slide off much easier than we’d ever imagine.

Although there are days it feels like people are purposely trying to say things that will bring us emotional pain, most often they won’t realize the pain they cause.

Grow close to the Father and your faith in man will decrease. You can get past your need for friends to empathize, and your emotions will not be so filled with pain.

Does it feel like no one understands what you are going through? How can leaning into God help you respond in a way that pleases Him? (Check out my book Why Can't I Make People Understand for added insight.)

Lisa Copen began Rest Ministries toencourage those who are chronically ill through daily devotionals, small groups called HopeKeepers, and other support. She is the author of a variety of books including Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend, Why Can't I Make People Understand, and She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for twenty years and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at


How to Keep Criticism from Crushing You

Gail Bones is an accomplished musician, educator and author. God has taught her much about dealing with criticism, and she remains vulnerable and transparent. I love that about her.

Gail shared this UPGRADE post, part of a longer article she wrote for writers and artists, but with helpful input for all of us:

I’ve been playing guitar my whole life. When I was a full-time performer, I could play guitar for six hours a day without feeling the strain. My secret? Industrial strength calluses. You get them the way oysters get pearls—by pressing through pain.

Writers are famous for having to learn how to handle rejection. We must develop a thicker skin, we are told. Even though I usually pretend to welcome it with open arms and a grateful heart, receiving even constructive criticism usually bothers me.

I don’t recoil, however, at the thought of pressing my fingertips against the hard steel strings of my guitar. As I’ve persisted over the years in leaning into the source of pain, my fingers actually have developed thicker skin.

Unless you have the courage to develop calluses, the beauty can’t flow freely from your hands.

There’s a lesson here about life.

Six Kinds of Criticism: Six Kinds of Pain

1. When It’s Right

When I joined my first writer’s critique group and started regularly seeing “wordy” written across my submissions, I didn’t believe it at first. I had to be alerted to the fact that I had this tendency and that it worked against the clarity and readability of my prose.

My critiquer was right. I leaned in to her insights, and my word counts began to drop dramatically.

2. When It’s Wrong

Not everyone who wields a red pencil gets it right 100% of the time. Don’t get discouraged; get a second opinion before you delete a month’s worth of work.

3. When It’s Gracious

Force yourself to accept that the commendations bookending the criticism are accurate.

Don’t highlight the negative and ignore the positive comments. Give yourself some credit!

4. When It’s Mean-spirited

Who knows why people feel they must spew venom when they get on the Internet. Anyone who gets that worked up, who uses capital letters and multiple exclamation points to slam someone else’s heart-felt words has issues that go beyond the scope of what you need to concern yourself with.

Just don’t go there.

5. When It’s Personal Preference.

Cross-stitch this if you need to, and hang it on your wall: Not everyone is going to love you. Not everyone is going to get you. But somebody will, and they are worth persevering for.

6. When It’s Self-Criticism.

I find I have to repeatedly scrape off the barnacles of pride masquerading as perfectionism that keep attaching themselves to my hull.

Being a people pleaser and a perfectionist will make you crazy. Being your own worst critic can sometimes be a sign that you have the discernment and sensitivity you need to be a writer. But you have to know when to silence that carping voice and let yourself believe positive and uplifting words.

The truth is, some criticism is tough to hear, but “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31).

How do you deal with various kinds of criticism? Which is the hardest for you?

 Dr. Gail Bones is a speaker, retreat leader, songwriter/worship leader,  former professor of education and the founder of CrossWise Living, an intergenerational ministry devoted to helping people navigate change. She and her husband Jeff have two married children. From the east coast but now living in San Diego, Gail says “happiness” means always having one or more of the following in her hands: a dog leash, a sailboat rudder, bicycle handlebars, a kayak paddle, an acoustic guitar, a big fat book or a hazelnut coffee. Read more about Gail at her website/blog.

Note: Guitar Photo Image courtesy of artemisphoto at