In this post: 3 Steps for turning a Critic into an Encourager (even if that critic is YOU)
Have you ever watched the show Cutthroat Kitchen? I love to sit on the couch, a subpar home cook myself, and watch world-renowned culinary experts critiqued over a dish they managed to put together in an extremely short amount of time, under absurdly challenging conditions. Of course, all the while knowing that I could never create the same caliber of food under even the best of circumstances.
My kids often watch with me and I never really gave much thought to what they were “picking up” from the show. The language is mild and the competition, while fierce, is all in good fun. I wasn’t worried.
Then, one night, we were sitting down to dinner and my daughter asked if we could play a “cooking show game.” Uhmmmm…okay, how do we play? She proceeded to become the “judge” and picked apart the dinner in front of her, both literally and figuratively. She criticized everything – from the texture to the taste and even how I “plated” the dish.
Wow. Just WOW.
She wasn’t being disrespectful or rude. She was simply playing her role in the game. Her tone was pleasant and she threw a compliment into the mix, but the overall end result left me feeling like crap. I am not a confident cook to begin with, so to have a 7-year-old find fault with my dummy-proof mash potatoes FROM A BOX was REALLY humbling.
It got me thinking…
What is it about criticism that we enjoy so much?
It dominates most of what we watch on tv, read in the news and share on social media. Apparently, it can even dominate the games we play with our children!
Criticism isn’t always negative. Constructive criticism is actually a good thing because it helps us improve in areas where we struggle. BUT, that is not what I am referring to here. I am talking about words that are meant to tear others down – either in their character, their appearance or their deeds.
“Our sin nature wants to discourage others. It desires self-exaltation more than anything. So it relishes focusing on others’ weaknesses and sins out of arrogance or envy. Pride is why so much of what we think or say or interpret or hear about others is negative and uncharitably critical.”https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/be-a-human-infusion-of-hope
Want to know what is REALLY scary? This isn’t just happening “out there” in the world. It is happening daily in our Christian homes, friendships, and churches. Even as Believers, when we consider how we interact with those closest to us, we may see some patterns that we didn’t even realize existed (or DO realize exist, but rather not admit to).
When your husband shares an idea, do you constantly find faults in his plan or have suggestions to “improve” it?
When your friend is complaining about her unruly kids misbehaving AGAIN, do you find yourself cataloging all her poor parenting methods, thus causing her own problem?
When you find out a member of your church is struggling with serious sin, do you starting counting up all the times he/she missed service or Sunday school, equating the inability NOT to sin with their poor church attendance?
And just because you don’t VOICE your criticism out loud;
it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in your heart.
If you only think it but don’t say it, does that make it okay? Nope! Not even a little bit. Just take a look at 1 Thessalonians 2:5b…”God is witness.” Witness to what exactly? Not JUST to what we say or do, but ALSO to what we think and feel.
How do we change this habit of naturally criticizing others into the exact opposite of that – ENCOURAGING others?
FIRST: We must look to the SOURCE of encouragement – Jesus.
When the grace of the Gospel is missing in our hearts, we look to others’ shortcomings to make ourselves feel better.
So we must regularly feed ourselves the truth of the Gospel…
Who is God? God is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin (1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:11, Rom. 2:5-8).
Who is Man? All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 51:5, Rom. 3:23). From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
Who is Christ? Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:26, Rom. 3:21-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 15:20-22).
SECOND: We must REPENT of our critical words and thoughts.
God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21, Rom. 10:9-10).
When we repent, we don’t simply ask for forgiveness. That is just the first part. We then must turn 180 degrees in the opposite direction, in this case, towards encouragement!
What does that look like in reality?
APOLOGIZE for past critical behavior;
STOP actively criticizing others and…
THIRD: START encouraging them instead.
By encourage, I do not mean flatter, offer empty compliments or give false hope. Seriously. How many horrible acts do we have to see on America’s Got Talent before parents stop telling their kids they are brilliant singers & dancers when clearly they are NOT?!
Want to read more about experiencing how God can change you right now? Check out Sanctification SUCKS – Can I Say That?.
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