Criticism and a Critical Spirit
I was listening to someone being critical of other people in his sphere today and it got me thinking. I felt impressed to capture these thoughts.
Let me first make a confession, that I am no better and I have been many times guilty of the same thing. I have been known to criticise and sometimes, quite openly. So, this piece is first to me, before anyone else.
Chances are we also have been on the receiving end of criticism too. Sometimes these can be so damaging that it destroys one’s self esteem and kills one’s confidence!
If you criticise another person or people, you have inadvertently said a few things.
- I know more than them
- I can do better
- I don’t care about their context
- I can’t learn from them
These statements are powerful, and they have deep pointers to who we really are.
This says we are proud. You cannot be sincere about your criticisms without some degree of pride, even if it is only slight. I hear the statement ‘constructive criticism’ because it is acknowledged that criticism can be destructive, and I am yet to see how it is constructive. I think it is plain negative and we should not try to use words to obscure or deflect the negative impact of criticism. I would rather we give feedback and in that we can the separate our feedbacks into positive and negative feedback. More like what you get in an assessment. Positive feedback is the breakfast of champions.
It is a manifestation of being conceitful. You have placed yourself above the person you are criticising. This may not be a conscious effort, but it has nonetheless taken place deep within our hearts.
We have relegated whatever wisdom they possess to the realms of irrelevancy. This is dangerous as it can lead to fatal errors, because wisdom can be found in some very unusual places.
It also says we are somewhat insensitive because you do not recognise that their context has a lot to do with their perspective and actions. Not understanding the context of a situation or person, before criticising them can expose a deep-rooted insensitivity and lack of empathy in us. It shows we are impatient and somewhat rude! Context is everything.
Knowing a person’s context can help you understand their position and place you in a better place to offer positive feedback that can help transform, rather than criticise and destroy.
Like I said, these are personal musings.
Now I want to explore what the Bible says about criticism.
Matthew 7:1-5 ESV “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
James 4:11-12 ESV / Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
James 1:19-20 ESV /Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Galatians 6:1 ESV /Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Romans 14:4 ESV / Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV / Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV / All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Proverbs 27:6 ESV /Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Proverbs 15:31 ESV /The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 ESV / And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
Hebrews 10:24 ESV / And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
It is obvious from scripture that God does not want us to criticize each other. He wants us to be careful with how we use our words. He wants us to consider the consequence of our words. He wants us to speak the truth, but in a lot of love. Not to tear anyone down but more to build them up.
Instead of criticizing, can we offer feedback in humility.
Why humility? Because we want them to decide what the next course of action will be. Criticism demands change on our own terms. Humble feedback offers perspectives that the person can consider and adopt if they so choose. Feedback is empowering, whilst criticism is disempowering. If they don’t do what you said, you are not being disrespected. The choice is theirs not yours!
Learn to listen and probe for context before judging. Resist the urge to judge. Instead open your heart in grace and listen for context that can help you understand the situation better. Just hold back a little!
Critical thinking as opposed to a ‘Critical Spirit’, will lead you to scenarios, that will help you see it from the other’s perspective and give you ways to help the person with positive transformational ideas. Never take the initiative from the person. Let them arrive at their own conclusions.
Once an Apostle of Christ came to teach us about prayer and he made a profound statement that has stayed with me ever since. He said there are two voices in heaven. There is the voice of the accuser and the voice of the Intercessor. He said we had to decide who we would side with. The ‘Accuser or the ‘Intercessor’. Now we all know who the accuser is and who the Intercessor is. When you criticise are you doing the work of the Intercessor or the Accuser?
Never approach a matter with preconception. Ask yourself if you know all the facts! This is really the issue with the log in our eyes!
Try giving feedback by starting with simple words like:
‘Thank you for that’. ‘I see what you tried to do’. ‘Maybe I can suggest looking at it from this perspective’.
‘I commend your effort’. ‘I understand your challenges on this project’. ‘I can see why it was a bit difficult’. ‘Let me suggest a few areas you can spend some more time on next time’.
‘I know you always try to give your best’. ‘Help me to understand what your challenges were on this project’. ‘I am not sure I fully understand what you are dealing with’.
‘Thank you. This really helps. I now know where I can help. Here are my thoughts’.
I am very concerned at the state of the world today and especially the complication of social media. People are being destroyed by careless, prideful and insensitive statements made by people, who really have no knowledge or business passing comment or judgements on matters. I just want to appeal to you to hold your fire and consider the person you are about to tear down. Think about the consequence of your words and on their life and mental health. Suicides are on the rise. This is not a coincidence, it is a consequence of the ease at which people can be torn down with words.
Let’s all make a decision to build others up. To be an edifier. To be an encourager. To be a positive influence. To speak in love. To treat others nicely and be humble! Just plain humble.
Let’s Pray: Father God, please forgive me for being critical of others and for passing judgement on others without fully understanding their perspectives. Father I am sorry and I ask for your forgiveness and mercy. I now ask you for the grace to always speak the truth in a lot of love. To be an edifier of people. To be an encourager. To help lift someone rather than pull them down. I choose to side with the heavenly intercessor tan join with the accuser. Lord help me in Jesus name. Amen