I am blessed to have a husband who helps. Laundry, housecleaning, dishes, changing dirty diapers – you name it, and he’ll do it. You would think I’d be shouting his praises from the rooftops. Actually, these days I do. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to get to that point. My critical nature kept me from seeing the many blessings that were right in front of my face.
Criticism in my life seemed to manifest itself in two forms: criticizing others, and criticizing myself. I found that in either form, each was destructive and sinful, and needed to be dealt with head-on.
Instead of recognizing how thoughtful my husband was being, I was honing in on the things that were not done correctly (i.e. not done my way!). Whites and colors were sometimes mixed in the laundry, occasionally spots remained on the glasses after a wash, and his standard of cleaning the house often did not meet my standards.
My critical nature certainly wasn’t limited to family members. I was quick to notice “failings” in other people as well. Other people’s parenting styles was a popular critique of mine. Unruly children were surely the result of a lack of discipline, and a mother’s decision to work outside the home could not possibly be the best thing for the child!
Oh, did the Lord open my eyes on those subjects. My own children challenge my parenting skills (and lack of!) on a daily basis. And I am constantly amazed and inspired by many of my mother-friends who manage a family and a career – and do it exceptionally well.
Often my criticisms came so quickly, I barely had time to recognize them as such. Sometimes I would wish a makeover show would transform some of the people I knew, or I would see a nicely dressed, beautiful woman and think “I bet she’s high maintenance!”
You would think with all the specks I was noticing in others’ eyes, I wouldn’t have a chance to notice the plank in my own. Oh, I managed to find a few.
Self esteem has never been one of my strengths, so I had a lot to work with. On any given day, I would criticize myself for my weight that never seemed to decrease, my clothes which never looked right, and the many talents that seemed to elude me yet gracefully fell on everyone else.
I believe self-criticism is a popular lie Satan uses to keep us from reaching our full potential as Christians. Focusing on all of my inadequacies kept me from believing God could actually use me for anything. I didn’t realize that by putting myself down, I was putting down the One who created me! He is the same One who has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). How can I think of myself as anything less than a precious creation of my Father?
God’s word is clear in the area of criticism – both of others and ourselves. One verse that particularly spoke to me was Matthew 7:1-2. “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Each time I criticized others, I was condemning myself.
Our thoughts and speech should reflect who we are in Christ. Proverbs 22:11 tells us: “He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend”. I don’t know about you, but He is one Friend I don’t want to betray.
The Lord has been faithful to caution me when my critical spirit rears its ugly head. Recently I saw a “model-gorgeous” woman at the store and thought “I wish I looked like that”. The Spirit whispered “She may be struggling with infertility or she may be in the middle of a failing marriage – count your blessings.”
Slowly but surely, I’ve improved a bit when it comes to criticizing. When I find myself beginning to criticize myself or judge others (or unfortunately sometimes in the midst of it!), a few “counter-attack” measures can be effective in combating it.
First, we’ll look at a helpful solution to criticizing others. What seems to work for me is to fight the negative with a positive. For example, there are times I find myself ready to pounce on my husband for leaving clothes in the dryer overnight to wrinkle. Before I open my mouth, I try to stop and remind myself that it was still a load I didn’t have to wash, and the wrinkles will come out with a couple more minutes in the dryer anyway.
Prayer is always a great way to get myself out of criticizing mode. When I see someone I’m about to criticize or judge in my thoughts, I try to immediately pray for them instead. Not only is it helpful in setting my mind on higher things, it puts me in a relatively constant mode of prayer!
Combating the criticism I heap on myself is little more difficult for me. After all, I’m the one who is most familiar with all my warts and blemishes – literally and figuratively. But those “warts and blemishes” – along with two working legs, good eyesight, and voice to shout an “Amen” once in a while – were carefully and lovingly knitted together in my mother’s womb. And I will praise Him because “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”! (Ps. 139:14, italics mine).
Regardless of my imperfections, God is certainly powerful enough to use me. I’m reminded of how God used Moses, a murderer with self esteem issues. Maybe it’s time I recognize the fact that God is bigger than my inadequacies. What better way to demonstrate His grace and power than to let others see how He might use me in spite of myself.