Why Criticism Is So Unhealthy

labelsThere's an ad campaign going around right now where a person talks about having satellite television. Then, they introduce an 'alternate universe' version of themselves who has a deficiency and this version of themselves has cable. The tag line is "Don't be like this me. Get satellite TV."

I feel like there are some different versions of myself.

'Normal me' is a nice guy. You'd like him. He's friendly and engaging - plenty of witty and humorous remarks. Most people like normal me. I like normal me.

But there's another guy that I hope you don't meet. It's 'On The Highway During Rush Hour' me.

He can be an unbelievable jerk. He tells everyone else all the stuff they're doing wrong. If you're driving too fast or too slow, he's going to talk about that. If you change lanes too often, or if you stay in the left lane without changing, be prepared to have your intelligence questioned.

'Rush Hour' me thinks he is better than everyone else, but all he accomplishes is causing frustration to anyone who is in his own car with him.

Don't be like 'Rush Hour' me.

In fact, let's look at what makes 'Rush Hour' me such a problem: he's always criticizing people.

Criticism is a form of arrogance. It comes from a perspective that I am smarter than other people and know what they should be doing rather than what they are actually, currently doing.

Here's the worst part about 'Rush Hour' me: sometimes he shows up in places other than the car during crazy traffic.

He can show up in my marriage, in my parenting, in my workplace, and pretty much any other places.

When I'm in this mode, I'm all about telling other people what they should think, say, and do.

Here's the bottom line when it comes to this behaviour: in Philippians 2:3, Paul writes, "Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves."

Criticism happens when I value 'being right' more than I value other people.

When I look at Jesus, I see a human who literally had all the answers. He had every right to tell people how we get it wrong, but most of the time, he talks about the better ways to live life rather than pushing our noses in the ways we were getting it wrong.

His whole Sermon on the Mount was reframing the way to have a fuller life, and he was pointing to areas where we were getting it wrong (hate your enemy, divorce any woman with little effort or cause, lusting and hating are okay if you don't act on it), but he didn't insult the intelligence or personhood of his listeners.

In fact, the only people that got to hear Jesus being critical were the religious leaders, who spent their time criticising others. It's almost like Jesus gave them exactly what they were giving to others...treating them the way they were treating others - which is a lesson Jesus repeatedly taught - you get what you give (see Luke 6:30).

Jesus was God. He was qualified to be 'where the buck stops' in this process. But you and I are not qualified to do this. We're not very good at knowing what is justice, versus what is revenge or retribution.

When Paul tells us to view others as better than ourselves, he's asking us to trust that God is going to set all the wrongs to right.

He's asking us to leave space for people to hear what God is saying to them. Or to say that another way:  When you criticize people, you get in the way of the Holy Spirit working in their life.

If you see people heading for disaster, this doesn't mean you should say nothing, but criticism won't help them or you. Think about your natural reaction to criticism. Now ask why others should react to criticism differently? Because you're smarter? Takes us back to that arrogance problem, right?

Accountability is a healthier way to help others. We should be a champion for people in our life, not an accuser.

The term 'The Satan' literally means 'The Accuser'. God knows we don't need more satans in our lives.

When you criticize, you are literally being 'The Satan' to another person.

I hope that 'Rush Hour' me is reading this article right now. If he is, I want to say this: Love is a better way. You can't improve the world through criticism, but you can improve it through love.