Something that I have been becoming more aware of recently is how we seem to be encouraged by the media to become judges of everything we see. We harshly point out everyone’s flaws and failings in a way that is destructive and harmful. You just have to walk past a magazine stall to see who the latest celebrity ‘victims’ are. You’ll see whose misfortune, mistakes and inadequacies are displayed all over the front pages. These are the same people that in the last edition were the nation’s sweetheart, the latest thing and the celebrity to look up to. Somehow, as soon as they don’t live up to the unrealistic expectations put upon them, they are publically smashed into the ground and ripped apart. Is this really what we should be modelling to our young people and children? Is this really how we think that people will be motivated to develop and grow?
I see this mentality creeping into all aspects of life and when we are not careful, we can find this judgmental attitude having a negative effect on our churches and communities. We seem to have decided that is our right to negatively criticise another person, and if we are brutally honest, we have all been guilty of this. It’s so easy to criticise someone and make a snap judgement that we then use as the benchmark of everything they later do. I feel as children of God we should be challenging this destructive criticism in both ourselves and in the church.
When I find myself starting to be critical about someone I have started to question myself. Is there really a fundamental issue with the person or am I allowing a critical spirit to stop me from focusing on and worshipping God? Should we be going to church with this critical attitude waiting to pounce on some poor unexpecting child of God, or should we be going with an attitude of love for God, wanting to draw closer to Him so that we can be changed, renewed and restored by Him?
When we give our opinions, worries and criticisms to God, everything else fades away and we can focus on giving glory to the one who truly deserves it, rather than treating people with contempt.
Now don’t get me wrong there are times when constructive criticism is needed so that people can develop and move forward. This word, ‘constructive’, is easy to hide behind, and we need to understand the motives of the criticiser to determine whether it really is constructive.
Teachers sometimes get teased for their ‘praise sandwich’ technique. There is a reason it is widely used. The idea is to affirm a child, give them something achievable to develop, then follow up with further encouragement. By doing this, the teacher helps the child have something positive to work on whilst at the same time feel encouraged. We need to question our motive behind criticising. Is what we are saying going to help this person in a positive way or is it just being said out of judgement and as a way to bring someone down?
Recently I had a situation where a friend offered some criticism, it was meant as constructive but the way it was initially delivered left me feeling confused and a bit hurt. I wasn’t sure what they meant or how I could improve what I was doing. Once we had talked about it, and the person explained exactly what they meant, and why they said it and how I could put this advice into practice it made complete sense. What had been said was simply some advice of how I could turn a good performance into a really special performance by not over singing such a simple and beautifully written song. By being able to swallow my pride, making myself open to someone’s constructive criticism I was able to do a better job.
This situation reminded me of two important things. One of these is when we are offering constructive criticism to remember who it is you are dealing with. How do they respond to things? What are their insecurities? Are they someone who responds to tough love? Or do they need to be dealt with more sensitively? By knowing how someone responds we are able to help them develop and grow with our words rather than feed their insecurities, and feelings of failure.
Part 2 is next week.