I stopped in my tracks.
The moment he said it, I knew where he had heard it before: from me. We were walking back to our car after attending a worship service, and my son made the comment, “That worship leader wasn’t a very good singer.”
Criticism comes easy to us, doesn’t it? We certainly don’t have to try very hard to be critical of others; it comes pretty naturally, like mindfully eating handfuls of popcorn while watching a movie. Without even thinking, we’ve ingested a whole bucket of junk that clogs our arteries, and all we’re left with is an empty container.
It makes it even harder when criticism is part of our job. When evaluation and competition are part of what we do to get better at our craft, it muddies the water. When you’re a musician, you’re a critic of music. When you’re an artist, you judge other artists’ work. When you’re a teacher, you give criticism as feedback to help your students grow. Constructive criticism is necessary. Corrections need to be made to grow and I believe wholeheartedly that we should pursue excellence because God is worthy of nothing less than that. I’m not talking about criticism in the sense of the dictionary definition: “a person who judges the merits of literary, artistic, or musical works, especially one who does so professionally.” I’m talking about the ugly kind of criticism, the one that wells up from the inside, spews out and bites. The kind of criticism that cuts. You know the one?
What is the motivation behind the criticism? In Galatians 5:14-15, we read, “For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?”
Criticism—the cutting kind—steals freedom.
As worshippers, we are called to be encouragers, not critics. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
This got me thinking: how can I cut the criticism in my life (like cutting sugar from my diet) and replace it with encouragement that spurs others on? What would it look like if I only wear my critic glasses when I’m asked for feedback, or if I truly need to help make something better? What if I stop, before criticizing, and choose words that spring up out of encouragement, instead?
I came up with the following comparison chart as a heart-check reminder: am I criticizing or encouraging?
Sometimes it’s as simple as choosing different words to encourage rather than criticize. At other times, we need to look deep into our own hearts and deal with our own stuff.
I’m committing to cutting the criticism in my life and joining the author of Hebrews in this: “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.” How about you?