Criticism's Antidote

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

When We're Criticized, explains how to handle critical attacks and constructive criticism. Just as important as knowing how to take criticism is remembering not to dish it out ourselves!

When others are talking critically about something or someone, or when someone does something that we don't think is good or logical, critical statements often just roll off our tongues. Sometimes we're not even aware we're criticizing others because we're so used to hearing it and giving it. In fact, it can become such a common practice that we might wonder what else there is to talk about…other than constantly talking about others!

But Jesus was pretty clear about criticism. He said:

Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults -- unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don't condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier. (The Message, Luke 6:37)

So why are we critical of others or of ourselves? Why do we not take his command more seriously? Why are we "inclined to find fault, or to judge with severity" Webster, Student's Reference Dictionary)?

People who are critical -- of others or of themselves -- usually have low self-esteem. And the flip side of low self-esteem is egotism. They go together.

  • The only way they can feel better about themselves is by finding faults in others.
  • They don't know their own worth.

When we're critical …

  • we think we're right and others are wrong, which is egotistical;
  • we don't usually have good motives;
  • we're criticizing the individual God made.

It is so important NOT to be critical. Paul explains:

Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. (The Message, Rom. 2:1-3)

People who are confident in themselves:

  • don't feel the need to put down others;
  • find the good in others;
  • compliment people;
  • appreciate their unique individualities and ways of doing things.

So, how do we find enough confidence to stop criticizing?

  1. We need to get a clear understanding of our relationship with God.
    1. We are God's children. God made us in His "image" and "likeness" and saw that His entire creation was "very good" (Gen. 1:26, 31).
    2. God loves us so much, more than we could ever imagine! He sent us His Son to show us the way to eternal life.
    3. God has given us everything we need and is always telling us what to do and what's best for us. Paul tells us:

    It's God we are answerable to…not each other….So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I'd say it leaves you looking pretty silly -- or worse. (The Message, Rom. 14:8, 10)

    1. We can trust that God is communicating to us and to others. Paul affirms:

    Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. (The Message, Rom. 14:13)

    1. Focus on God, and see others through His eyes.
      1. Focusing on others is not only an indication that we don't trust God to work effectively with others, but it also tends to keep us from seeing how we can improve. Jesus declares:

        That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, "Let me wash your face for you," when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. (The Message, Matt. 7:2-5)
      2. Seeing others (including ourselves) through God's eyes will enable us to see the beauty of others and erase the impulse to criticize.
    2. Replace criticism with appreciation and compassion.
    3. Love
      1. Love, as John implies, is the ultimate antidote for criticism and provides total healing.
      2. Love itself is an incredible reward and holds an amazing promise:

        My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality. It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

        And friends, once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God! We're able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what he said, doing what pleases him. (The Message, John 3:18-22)

The urge to criticize will totally disappear when we are fully and freely able to love, able to receive the beautiful gifts God has prepared for us. Rather than criticize, let's please God.