One of the easiest things in the world to do is to criticize a person. One of the most difficult things to do is to keep your mouth shut when you want to criticize someone.
As a father there are times that I must correct the behavior and attitudes of my children, but the dominant emphasis of my communication with them ought to be affirming and encouraging.
I have a friend that has a father that has been critical of him through all of his life, even to his adult years. Every decision and action was subject to close scrutiny which led to words of disapproval….again and again. At some point a person gets tired of getting verbally beaten and begins to pull away.
Here is what is sad. I don’t think this father believes he is being critical. He thinks he is being helpful by helping his son reach his potential by pointing out his short comings. But he is not being helpful to their relationship as he has layered on negative and critical words year after year.
Why do we criticize people so readily? It is because of our pride. A critical spirit and pride are always related.
The Bible speaks of “the contempt of the proud” (Psalm 123:4) The word “contempt” means “to look down upon and to despise”. This is seen in our spirit and our words.
We all have a root of pride that tears others down that we might look better. God states that we are “to speak evil of no man”. (Titus 3:2) These are words that are fault-finding and negative without a desire to help.
I must insert here that God does not prohibit discernment. In fact, we have a responsibility to practice discernment. Many quote Matthew 7:1 that it absolutely prohibits making any judgments at all. Quite the opposite, in context (read the five verses after verse 1) the passage is talking about having an ability to make proper judgments, but without a eye for criticism and fault-finding.
I have learned that we tend to judge others with our head and ourselves with our heart. Or another way to express it is we tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. If we reversed it our words and spirit would be very different.
There are times when we all need constructive criticism. If not, we would never reach our potential. However, have you ever been on the end of “constructive criticism” when you felt attacked and emotionally bruised? The goal of correction should always be to leave the person feeling he has been helped, not attacked.
Typically, critics speak out quickly without considering other factors. Pride makes us think we are right and so we refuse to listen. “Unsolicited advice is a form of criticism”, said Curtis Hutson. It’s easy for me to dispense advice without thinking twice about it. It would be better if I paused and considered whether what I wanted to say was kind, necessary, or the best time to say it.
When I married Paula it wasn’t because I needed someone to criticize. Not at all. She is precious to me and I want her to feel valued, not like some kind of project I am working on. The better we get to know someone the number of flaws we see just by the sheer amount of time we spend with them. Seeing where someone could improve doesn’t merit a critical attitude on my part.
Paula wasn’t attracted to me because I was an excellent critic and was committed to helping her reach her potential. She knew that I not only loved her, but I also liked her. How sad that when we get to know someone it is easier to highlight their defects than to enjoy all the good things about them.
I have taught our staff that if we want the assets of our workers, there will be some liabilities we must tolerate. Until Jesus comes there will always be some liabilities, even in our closest relationships.
Someone said, “Our own faults are the ones we condemn the most quickly in others”. I think that is true. The Jews were very religious people and preached very hard against the sins of others (especially the Gentiles, non-Jewish people). God put the hammer on them for their hypocrisy and criticizing others for that which they were guilty.
Read the following passage carefully. It will speak to you about our nature to so easily criticize people, even in the very things we do.
“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” (Romans 2:17-24)
Underneath all of our finger-pointing and criticism which comes so easy is pride. It makes us self-righteous, harsh, and blind to our own faults. And it makes us hard to live with and hard to like. That’s a poor environment in which to grow a sweet and healthy family.
When my children were younger I would ask them a couple of times a year, “Is there anything that Daddy does that you don’t like and you would like for me to change?” I was talking with one of my children about this many years ago and their response was that I wasn’t doing anything that was displeasing to them.
I could sense some hesitation in the answer and so I pressed it again. “No, I really want to know. I don’t want to do anything that hurts you or that you don’t like. I’m not going to be upset. I really want to know”. After thinking about it and being assured of my sincerity, they said, “Well……..sometimes you won’t admit when you are wrong”.
I apologized profusely and sincerely, but the words stuck in me like an arrow because I knew they were correct. My pride had made me unapproachable, defensive, and quick to find fault without owning up to my own. I felt sick about it.
Someone wrote, “It is better to be blind than to see things wrongly”. When we see people wrongly we criticize them. Even when we see them rightly, we need to make sure that our heart is to help and not just to demean and speak against them.
The reason we speak harshly and find fault is because that is what is in our heart. Before we say critical words, we think them. The Bible says, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”. (Matthew 12:34) Our words cannot change until our heart changes.
In the past few posts I have given five expressions of pride. Below is a list of them with their opposite quality. Only Christ can give us the positive traits. When we have them, we will have a sweeter, happier home.
Circle which words would characterize you and deal with any pride in your life. Better yet, have your family to go through each contrast of the five and have them to evaluate you.
Boasting vs. giving credit. Pride wants to be noticed; humility recognizes how God and others have benefited your life and honors them for doing so.
Defensiveness vs. being transparent. Pride wants to get the final word and refuses to admit when wrong; humility is open and honest about personal failure.
Inconsiderate vs. being sensitive. Pride speaks quickly and doesn’t realize those that have been hurt by those words; humility is considerate and weighs both the choice and tone of one’s words.
Argumentive vs. listening. Pride refuses to admit the possibility of being wrong and enjoys debating to protect the reputation; humility listens to what is being said.
Judgmental vs. understanding. Pride is harder on others than one’s self; humility gives one pause to understand and reserve judgment.