While thinking about Herman Cain… Democrats & Republicans… Fans about College coaches… and just listening to people in general, it seems to me there is a lot of criticism by people about whoever is the target of the day. Then my guess is all of us have had the joy of being criticized by others too. So I got to thinking about criticism…
Our ability to handle criticism is a good indicator of how much we believe the Gospel (CLICK HERE and read SLOWLY!). Here’s another thought… If criticism sends us into a tailspin, we value people’s opinions more than God’s opinion. One more… Deciding a criticism is wrong about us does not mean the criticism is false.
Consider 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 (Emphasis mine)…
With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
Note a few points Paul makes. 1) THAT he was criticized by others didn’t bother him, regardless of who it came from. 2) He refrained from beating himself up (v 3b). 3) Just because he wasn’t aware of something he should be criticized for didn’t mean there wasn’t something to be criticized for. 4) Leave evaluation to God who reveals the heart’s motivation AND evaluation of the same. 5) The only evaluation that matters is God’s.
When a person critizes someone else, it is easy to discern whether their motivation is properly or improperly motivated. When a criticism is properly motivated (Love for the hearer and desiring their good), every attempt is made not to embarrass the hearer… which usually means it is not done in the presence of others. When the critic speaks, the look in their eye… their posture… tone of voice… and attitude of love is abundantly obvious to the one receiving the criticism. Then it is obvious that the critic’s motivation is for their hearer to grow and become a better person. Last… when the critic leaves, the hearer is refreshed and strengthened.
On the other hand, it is just as easy to discern when a person’s criticism is improperly motivated (To make a point, take a jab, or bruise the hearer). First… it usually is presented in the presence of others. Second… often the person will state, “I’m telling you this because I love you” (Not necessary when love is the motivation!). Third… the critic’s words are harsh, bold, and lacking in grace and mercy. Fourth… the critic may rely on “nameless others” who’ve talked to them as support for their criticism. Fifth… the critic does not try to be encouraging or redemptive. Last… when the critic leaves, the hearer feels beaten down, hurt, and unloved.
Thus Paul wrote Galatians 6:1-2 for talking with people to be properly motivated… “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. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
I close with a few passages for contemplation… for those on both sides of the criticism issue… those who feel compelled to give it AND those who it is directed toward…
Click and read Psalm 56 (Thanks B!)
Romans 14:2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 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. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is goodfor building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted,forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave YOU.
CLICK HERE for thoughts by another pastor on criticism and how to deal with it.