It is so easy to criticize everyone.
It is so easy to criticize and yet incredibly difficult to have the self awareness to see our own flaws.
It is so easy to criticize and yet incredibly difficult to take criticism.
From the President, to Pro Football players kneeling, to bosses, to family, to churches, criticism is running rampant in our culture.
One thing that I think we should wrestle with is why are we all prone to criticize others?
My theory is because it’s easy.
We are wired to seek comfort. The easiest thing to do is to focus on others so that you do not have to deal with your own issues.
If we can focus on how bad someone else is handling life we don’t have to deal with our own poo.
In a relationship it is easy to point out the issues of the other person and ignore the part that you play. All relationships take two people. All relationships are flawed.
But when our emotions get involved we can’t see clearly. We are all wired to be self centered. On our good days we think of others, but when we experience negative emotions the power of self is at it’s strongest.
It’s why a person who is being extremely critical often misses how his/her criticism is impacting others. A critical spirit clouds our ability to have empathy. We become so consumed with self that we don’t care what happens to the other person that receives our criticism.
I once was given extreme criticism about a decision that I made. A lot of my writings come from my experiences. I shared about the experience and what I learned from it. I honestly didn’t think this person would ever read my thoughts. The writing took place well after the incident and was written out of the lesson I learned. It wasn’t a reaction or a passive aggressive post. I learned something and I wanted to share it.
The person stumbled upon my writing and immediately called. Even though there was no name mentioned the events around the situation made it clear. They were apologetic. Up until that point their offense hadn’t allowed them to see the impact of their words to me. And the truth is I could have been 100% wrong in my decision, but that doesn’t mean their reaction was justified.
Your words have the ability to produce life or death. Every human is tempted to be the worst version of themselves when things don’t go our way. And negativity is easy so we are all naturally drawn to it.
So, we have to intentionally work against what’s easy. Things don’t improve accidentally, but intentionally.
Now, I hope that all humans will wrestle with the part they play in the story. We have all said careless words. We have all reacted in anger. But let’s not focus on the past. For your future, what are you willing to do to make sure your story is one that brings life?
I hope all humans will wrestle with this, but this post is addressed to Christians. As Christians we are called to a higher standard.
I love the quote by Pastor Mark Batterson,
“In my experience, it’s much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one.” –Mark Batterson, Primal
I cannot control what other people do. I cannot control what other people tweet. I cannot control what others say. I cannot control my face after I taste lima beans. They are gag nasty. Spawn of Satan. The Devil’s vegetable. There I go being negative. It’s so easy. Uhh. I digress.
I cannot control anyone but myself, and as you can see controlling myself is a full time job.
I don’t want to live in a bubble and ignore the issues of the world, but at the same time I don’t want to be consumed with other people’s problems.
“When we start taking responsibility for someone else’s property such as their feelings, thoughts behaviors, etc., it is a warning sign. When you start controlling or feeling controlled this is red flag.” – Cloud and Townsend
I have a choice to make the world better or to make it worse. With every Facebook post, Instagram pic, conversation, and reaction I get to choose to make the world better or worse.
I find that when we are living an amazing story and changing the world we have a lot less time to criticize someone else’s story.
There are lots of problems in the world. Do something constructive about it. Inspire the world by your actions.
Not everyone will agree with you, but that’s not the point.
The point is that we so often settle for the easiest route. We criticize without offering a potential solution. We add to the noise and do nothing to make the world better.
“Few want to hear this, but it’s true, and it can be enormously helpful in life: if you’re constantly being hurt, offended, or angered, you should honestly evaluate your inflamed ego.” – Brent Hansen
Because I’m human I am prone to go critical on things that I cannot change. I’m a work in progress. If you are in progress like me then keep reading.
Here are 4 questions to ask before you criticize someone. I’m putting this into practice to do something constructive with the criticism I feel.
5 Questions To Ask Before You Criticize:
1. Have I Ever Been In Their Position?
It’s super easy to criticize others when you have not been in their position. Have you ever heard people without kids criticize parents with a kid that are having a meltdown at the grocery store?
If you have not been in this person’s position than it’s okay to have an opinion, but it needs to come with the humility to admit you don’t have a fat clue how hard their position is.
It’s easy criticize a boss…it’s extremely difficult to be the boss.
It’s easy to criticize a church…it’s extremely difficult to lead a church.
It’s easy to criticize a parent…it’s extremely difficult to be a parent.
Often the loudest voices come from those who have not done anything productive.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my loudest accomplishment to be the criticism I have for someone else.
When it comes to making movies you have Directors and Critics. A director’s job is incredibly tough because they have to oversee a new creation. A critics job simply has to share an opinion about the completed film.
It’s easier to be a critic than a director.
For me, I want to offer any criticism with grace. That’s not always easy.
Ask me about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and you will see me lose my Jesus. That movie made me so mad. I actually went to see it a second time to make sure it was as bad as I remembered. It was. But no one forced me to see that movie. No one forced me to watch it again. I’ve never made a movie so what I need to do is temper my strong feelings with grace. That’s not my favorite movie…and that’s okay. Not everything has to fit my tastes and preferences.
Criticism focuses on what is wrong and loses site of what’s right.
If you have not been in their position than understand you do not know how difficult it is for them. And that leads to question 2.
2. Why Does This Bother Me?
When a situation that does not directly impact you affects your mood ask yourself why this bothers you so much?
Is it because it is truly wrong? Is it because it’s sinful? Is it because it is harming someone else?
Is it because it’s different than what you would do?
If it’s not hurting anyone, and it’s not sinful than why does it bother you?
It’s okay to think, “That’s not the way I would handle it, but that’s fine.”
If what bothers you is sinful or harming someone else than it’s a righteous anger and thus you should do something about it. If not then it’s self centered entitlement that we have to die to.
3. What Is A Possible Solution?
Become part of the solution or you will be part of the problem. I love the quote made famous by Eldridge Cleaver,
“There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” – Eldridge Cleaver
We all get upset. The easiest thing in the world is to react to a problem. The more difficult but beneficial thing is to present potential solutions.
4. Am I Willing To Do Anything About This?
Most of the time when we criticize we look for someone to sympathize with us. We all need venting sessions. Sometimes we just need to process out loud how frustrating something is. Sometimes we vent and don’t want answers.
Often though venting turns into negativity that does nothing more than breed more negativity. Whoever your go to person is to vent to the key question for them to ask you is, “What are you going to do about it?”
Often when we vent people start to give us answers and that’s not what we are looking for. We want someone to acknowledge that what we are venting out stinketh. That’s King James for stink. But after we vent we need the question, “What are you going to do about it?”
If we say nothing, then the vent needs to be over. It’s out of our system and we need to move on. If it’s major and you find that you are still frustrated then do something about it.
Some people just love to be miserable. They will complain about things that they can change, but aren’t willing to lift a finger. Life is what happens to you. Life is what you do with what happens. A good life or a poor life is not based off luck. It’s based off the ability to keep the faith despite tough circumstances.
When you think of a solution and then act on it you then bring something productive to the world.
Most visions start out as frustrations. A frustration can lead to change if you act on it. If you aren’t willing to do anything than don’t criticize someone else. They may be doing a horrible job, but at least they are doing something.
5. If I Was In Their Position How Would I Want To Hear This Criticism?
Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
If you were about to be criticized how would you like to hear it? What could be said to help you change?
If I received criticism from a loving person who offered potential solutions and offered to help solve the problem I would receive the criticism well.
But if you come at me and tell me that I’m a blooming idiot I’m probably not going to listen to what you have to say. Even if you are right I’m not giving that negativity rent in my head.