No one wants to admit they’re critical, we hide it, mask it, or maybe we’re just oblivious to it. The reality is that we all struggle with being critical of others or ourselves. We are surrounded by criticism from every angle. I can’t name a time when I was listening to the news, or on social media that someone was not critiquing, criticizing, or downright insulting someone else or their actions or beliefs. John Gottman who is one of the leading marriage theorists described criticism as one of the four leading predictors of divorce. When criticism becomes about the character of a person or the person itself rather than the behavior it’s a problem. Furthermore, criticism is about blaming and provides no help for improvement. It’s belittling to the person being criticized and it is only based on the other’s opinion of right/wrong. We can be critical of others or critical of ourselves. This kind of pervasive attitude does 3 things.
- It gives us the illusion that we have a right to judge one another.
- Surrounds us with an oppressive air of division.
- Creates expectations which are often unrealistic or unattainable.
The church more than anyone else should be above this kind of conduct but far too often the church is found right in the middle of ridiculing others. This kind of behavior does not differentiate us from the world and creates people who are scared or angry at the church (organization), and its followers. So many people have church hurt.
In 1 Timothy 1:12-15 Paul talks openly about his ignorant unbelief before coming to know Christ. In his sinful nature he was like the rest of the lost world. He makes it very clear to his readers that it was only through God’s mercy and grace that he was judged faithful and appointed to the service of Christ. It is this very grace that is to differentiate believers from the rest of the world.
As a life that is changed by the gospel we are to first and foremost make prayer for all people be our priority. Too often prayer is a last resort defense when it should be the Christian’s offensive priority. Paul reminds us to pray for the salvation of others and specifically emphasizes civil government leaders. This is because God’s desire is for all to be saved, but also because Paul knew that Christians in leadership would allow for a more peaceful spreading of the gospel.
So rather than joining in with criticism of non-believers, of whom we used to be, let’s start by earnestly thanking Jesus for his saving grace in our own lives in which we used to be enemies of the cross, and then by praying for their salvation and for the Lord’s will to direct their thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Points for thought
- Do you find yourself criticizing (or complaining) about other’s actions or choices? (sometimes this takes the form of comparing)
- Are you more critical of others or yourself?
- How can being too self-critical be damaging?