The question is: when is it appropriate to be a critic?
Let’s start with the opposite: when is it inappropriate to be a critic? At mid-life, I have come to a conclusion: most people are not qualified to make most statements that sound judgmental or critical. They are not qualified because they are either more guilty of the criticism they launch than their target is (the “log in the eye” syndrome Jesus warned us about) or they really have too little experience or evidence to back up their negative judgment.
Take for instance the non-Christian claim that “all preachers are in it for the money”. I’ve heard this said of every preacher on TV – Joel Osteen, Brian Houston, Benny Hinn – I’m sure you can name more. I’ve witnessed time and time again that those who make such sweeping criticism share three things in common:
1) They are the stingiest, most money-loving people you will ever come across. They are measuring, comparing and competing with everybody else. They want to know the source of your income, how much your house cost, what kind of car you drive, where you vacation. The only reason they give to others is to be seen and recognized, and if you missed it, they will let you know how generous they were.
My father used to say, “It takes one to know one.” The reason they accuse others of sin is because they are guilty of that very sin. They think they see the speck in others’ eyes because they have a log in their own eye. I pay attention to uninformed criticism because it reveals more about the speaker than anyone else.
2) If you were to ask the critic to back up their accusation, they would almost always lack the experience to do so. In this case, I would simply ask, “If preachers are in it for the money, why don’t you try it? Give it a go! See how much money you will make.”
The truth is, the majority of successful preachers have sacrificed a path of comfort to live a life of service for others. Yes, a minority of preachers have swindled money and lived for themselves but compared to any other profession on earth, I’m going to make an educated guess that this minority must be far fewer.
Until you are willing to step into someone’s shoes and walk their path better than they have, I would withhold all criticism. Until you are behind the same steering wheel and are able to drive better in the same situation, you are nothing more than a “back-seat-driver”. Rather than criticize, produce what they have produced, and try to do it better.
You might find my critique of the critics somewhat judgmental. I agree with you. As someone who has been on radio and TV, authored a best-selling book, pastored a church for 12 years and spoken to people in different nations and different venues as large as 10,000, I feel I have the empathy, experience, and maturity to back up my statements. I suppose you are reading my comments because you have chosen to invest some trust in me in this area. So back to…
When is it appropriate to be a critic?
If we have something negative to say, it should only be when we are truly an expert in that field. If we haven’t painted before, we shouldn’t be quick to criticize someone else’s painting. If we haven’t cooked before, we shouldn’t be quick to criticize other people’s cooking. If we haven’t been involved in business before, we shouldn’t be quick to judge other people’s business management. If you have matured enough through life’s trials and work experience to offer constructive criticism, I believe people will listen. In all other instances, our criticism hurts our own credibility. As Christians, that should matter to us.
1 Timothy 3:11 (NKJ)
Likewise, their wives must be reverent, NOT SLANDERERS, temperate, faithful in all things.
What some women today call gossip is what the Bible called “slander”. What some men call criticism is what the Bible called “slander”. Slander is a sin. A godly man or woman never slanders another.
I will continue with “6 Tips on How to Handle Criticism” next post.
Before I go, I promised you 3 points. I will reiterate that this is based on my personal experience. I won’t spend any time to justify it. Those who see it will agree. Those who don’t won’t. There is a third thing critical personalities share in common.
3) They suffer from unexplained illnesses. I have seen this in critical personalities across different ages and in different nations. Their bodies age faster and their faces have more wrinkles than normal. I am not saying all old people or sick people are critical by any means. I am suggesting that a critical attitude adversely affects people’s health and they tend to be unaware of the impact their attitude is having.
The Bible teaches clearly that we cannot walk out of love towards other people and expect to enjoy youthfulness and good health. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.” The motivation behind most criticism is envy or jealousy; God links jealousy to disease in the body, especially the bones.
YOUR SAY: Do you agree or disagree with the 3 points? Why?
What examples of slander have you seen? How did you handle it?