walk in the word
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3, esv)?
Are you familiar with Christ’s words regarding a critical attitude? In the Sermon on the Mount, He asked His followers, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3, esv)?
Growing up, maybe you heard your parents picking at others’ imperfections and forever finding fault. Perhaps you sat through countless Sunday dinners of “roast preacher.” Or you may have been endlessly criticized yourself and now cringe to hear that same attitude in your tone toward your children. Maybe in public settings, you struggle to simply relax and enjoy what is going on without inspecting, examining, and forming opinions about your experience. Or you might have grown up learning to criticize the speck in another’s eye while a logjam formed in your own.
Complaining relates to situations, whereas criticism relates to people. While constructive criticism can have value, destructive criticism causes mass pain. What qualifies as destructive criticism? Dwelling upon the perceived faults of others with no view to their good.
Some faults we see in others aren’t even real—they’re perceived. Our perception of what is wrong with someone else is not necessarily accurate. We may be unaware of extenuating circumstances, or maybe the problem is actually with us, not the other person at all. We can become very critical of others yet be entirely wrong in our opinions. Regardless of whether the faults are real or perceived, dwelling on those faults is destructive.
Some people seem naturally positive, upbeat, and encouraging, while others are often critical of people and their actions. As you walk through life, these critical thoughts might ring through your mind: That’s not right! Who thought that was a good idea? Someone should have dealt with that issue. Whether you lock onto one fault in one person or you get to the place where you can’t see anything good and right anywhere, you’re wrestling a critical attitude.
If you’re an analytical person, a lot of data is surfing on your brain waves. You can’t necessarily stop that general way of thinking; it’s the way God made you. The problem comes when you choose to dwell upon your observations—when you can’t set them aside.
Which leads to a question of your motives. It’s not criticism to dwell upon a fault you observe in someone, provided you are going to pray about it and pursue a solution. If you observe someone struggling with a specific issue, it’s not a critical attitude to pray for that person and ask God to help him. And if you have a relationship with the person, it’s not a critical attitude to observe a flaw, go directly to the person, and talk to him. But too often at this point our motives get muddied, and rather than talking directly to the person, we share the situation with a third party or dwell on it in our minds.
Over time, criticism makes us hard, vindictive, and cruel. It leaves us with the flattering but very false notion that we are superior. It is impossible to develop the characteristics of a saint while maintaining a critical attitude.
Father God, help me discern the difference between loving, constructive criticism and the kind of criticism that destroys. Teach me to think highly and graciously of others, to pray for those who are struggling rather than judging them. Thank You for how Your Word shines into my heart. Forgive me for thinking so highly of myself, for thinking my perspective is the only right way to see. Forgive my arrogance, I pray, and please give me the humility to see the log in my own eye. Every sinner felt comfortable with Your Son; only the self-righteous chafed at His presence. I’m a sinner, and I need Jesus, in whose name I pray, amen.
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