So where does this urge to give unwanted opinion come from? We could use the typical excuse of it being formed in childhood. Way back in kindergarten when we warmed the bench while someone else that clearly wasn’t as good as us was able to play. We joke with our fellow bench-warmers about how one kid runs funny and we could beat them in a sprint. If we wanted to give it a more grown up excuse, we would say it’s all politics. How do you get back at the person that got the promotion instead of you? You talk with your fellow coworkers about how you put more hours in for the project or how much better your presentation was. Regardless of where we think it originates from, there are some symptoms of a cynical mindset that are easily recognizable.
In his book “Mind Over Emotions”, Les Carter describes the characteristics of a critic as “being overly concerned with personal rights, taking other people's success personally, desiring selfish gain, yearning for status and achievement, and an inability to share.” I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of one or two of those almost every day. If it is that easy to slip into the cynical mindset, wouldn’t it be easier to chalk it up as another human fallacy? This is the lie we tell ourselves when the critic comes out. “I can’t help it, I just have to speak my mind.” Or there is the classic attempt to hide your insult by saying “No offense, but…” I think we all can agree that when we start a sentence with those three words, it is usually something that is offensive. James 3:14-15 warns us about the origins of such actions by saying “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” If we have these feelings in our heart, scripture also reminds us that they will eventually flow out.
If we were to take this progression and lay it out in a church example, it would look like this: Joe has an ungodly issue in his heart -> Joe leaves this issue unchecked -> Joe’s issue moves from his heart to his tongue -> Joe critiques Moe (a minister at Joe’s church) after Sunday morning service by telling everything he could do better to Sally -> Sally now has an ungodly issue planted in her life. The cycle is started over again because Joe left an issue unchecked. The thing about critics is that they are only dangerous when they have an audience. The old saying is still true today that misery loves company. It is much easier to leave an issue unchecked when you have someone to complain about it to. This also makes it much easier to tear down someone that is trying to live a righteous life because you are not in their shoes attempting the same thing. The truth is that God did not call us to be critics, but instead to do his will. The last two verses of James 3 put it perfectly by saying “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
I’ve already admitted that this isn’t something that I have perfected by any means. I do know that it is something that the world we live in is drenched in every single day. My point, however, is to simply keep it in our sight. The next time you want to share your opinion about something, it might serve you better if you check the root. Do you have an unchecked issue in your heart that may need to be evaluated before your mouth can be trusted to speak freely? Are your comments coming from a place of peace or from a place of criticism? Choose today to be more of a peace maker than a critic from the sidelines.
Peace not Critique,