Criticism is one of the most common and deadly forces in our world today. You’ve experienced it, right? Probably on both the giving and receiving end. It’s a weapon used regularly by friend and foe alike through innocent sounding “jabs,” thinly veiled attacks through a Facebook post, or blatant “in your face” attacks. Regardless of the form, the result is almost always the same: broken relationships and broken people.
Roots of Criticism
So, what is at the heart of criticism? One of two things (or quite often a combination of the two) always seems to be present: Pride and insecurity. It might sound a little weird to couple insecurity with pride, but think about how similar they are. When I’m prideful, I’m focused on my own (perceived) goodness as I am looking down on someone else, thus further elevating my own standing in my own mind. On the other hand, when I’m insecure, I tend to work hard to get someone down to a level where I feel I am elevated above them, so that I can then elevate my own standing in my own mind…and hopefully yours! In both instances I’m focused on myself (even if it’s looking at my deficiencies), which has as it’s goal, pride.
In an attempt to bolster my stock in my own world, I begin criticize those around me so that their deficiencies overshadow my own. Of course, criticism comes quickly when I have a very high view of myself and others pail in comparison to my own glorious self. Either way, people get hurt…including me.
The Road to Idolatry
I appreciate Oswald Chambers reminder that,”There is always one fact more in every man’s case about which we know nothing.” I must destroy the critical spirit within me or, left untreated, it will kill me. It will kill my spirit, my joy and my compassion…and leave a trail of broken people in my wake. Criticism puts me in the position only God is equipped for; only He is able to judge rightly and in a way that builds up and heals, and when I fail to leave that to Him alone, I slip into another cardinal sin: idolatry. I have now elevated myself to a place of prominence over and above the throne of God. Pride and idolatry is a deadly combination and the basis of all other sin (it’s what got Satan and our first ancestors in their…and our…mess in the first place!)
A Little Medicine Goes a Long Way
In the words of that great philosopher, Mary Poppins, “just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” There is a sweet remedy to the deadly concoction of pride and idolatry that often manifests itself through criticism. That is a God-given spirit of humility and contentment in Christ.
To get there, I need to remember a few things:
1. God has not invited me to sit on His throne. (Matthew 7:1-2) He, alone, is judge and when I fail to realize this, I will quickly find myself in front of his judgement seat. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31
2. I am called to be about the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). That cannot happen as long as I am tearing people down through my evil spirit of criticism.
3. I am complete in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). I have no need to pull others down so that I can feel the results of some artificially inflated ego that only feeds my self-worship even more.
4. There is actually nothing in me worth elevating or bragging about apart from Christ alone (Isaiah 64:4-9, Romans 7:18, 1 Corinthians 1:31). So, don’t do it. The higher I try to elevate the goodness in me which doesn’t exist, the farther I will fall when truth hits. The hard pavement of reality is painful at the bottom of that fall.
It doesn’t take much effort to be critical. As a matter of fact, it happens if I do absolutely nothing to stop it, but the power of the Spirit of God comes to my rescue when I simply take a moment to remember just how gracious God was to me in rescuing me in my own darkness and how desperate those around me are in need of that same kind of reconciliation. A great bi-product of this kind of “ministry of reconciliation” is that there comes a satisfaction and holy contentment with who I am that derives solely from Whose I am…and that feels really good.
”I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.” ~Oswald Chambers