Do you struggle with criticism?

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. –James 3:9-10

“Do you have any information on criticism?” asked the woman who approached me after worship one Sunday morning.

I began to discuss some resources with which I was familiar. She responded with a look of bewilderment.

Then she stated, “I don’t need help dealing with critics. I’m too critical. I need help dealing with me.”

Our discussion then turned in a different direction. One thing I assured her was that I believed her acknowledgment of the problem put her well down the road to spiritual growth in this area.

Surely she is not the only person wrestling with the temptation to be overly critical. Do you struggle with being overly critical?

While most agree there is a place for constructive criticism, most of us face the temptation to be overly critical. I hope to bring this issue into focus, without coming across as a “holier-than-thou-goodie-two-shoes” who has this totally under control. I need to grow in this regard. Indeed, I’m convinced we all need to grow in this area.

The following is adapted from an article that has been in my files for years. Before we criticize, perhaps these ideas will be helpful:

1. Pause and be sure that our hearts are right. Ask: Do I really want to help or hinder? Which will I be doing? Read: Matthew 7:12 and Ephesians 4:29.
2. Examine our own lives to see that everything is in order. Consider: Would I be honest to condemn another when correction is needed for my own soul? Read: Matthew 7:3-5.
3. Try to put our selves in the place of others. Ask: How would I be doing if I were bearing his burden or laboring in her place? See: Romans 15:1-2 and Colossians 3:12-14.
4. Remember God’s mercy toward me. Ponder: How often have I bowed before God to plead for grace when I have failed? Should I not be as merciful to a fellow-sinner? Read: Matthew 18:21-35 and Galatians 5:13-15.
5. Consider the benevolence of others. Determine: My brethren have often borne with me, my failures; therefore, can I not now suffer with another? Read: Galatians 6:1-2
6. Remember the hurt we felt the last time that someone unfairly criticized us. Ask: Can I delight in inflicting the same hurt upon another? Read: Matthew 5:44-48.
7. Pray for others and our selves. Remember: I need to petition the Father for my brethren that they might overcome; and for myself, that I might be forgiven for even considering sinning against them. Read: Acts 8:22.
8. Be willing to go to our brethren in humility. Then I can freely confess my own shortcomings, while seeking to serve as God’s instrument to open her eyes to her need for repentance. Read: James 19-20.

These are excellent suggestions. Following them would benefit each of us greatly. However, there is a greater principle to observe. Through the Apostle Peter, the Holy Spirit both states and explains it.

In 1 Peter 1:22 the principle is stated:

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

The explanation for this principle is provided for us in 1 Peter 4:8. Here we read:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love’s conquering power is once again celebrated. The spirit of harsh criticism is covered over and rendered powerless when the prevailing power of God’s love fills our hearts and guides our steps. Let us strive, always, to resist the temptation to harshly criticize one another. Beloved, as our Lord has commanded, let us love one another.

© Bill Williams, a fellow sojourner
September 9, 2016