Why So Critical?
Lately I have been reading articles or thoughts people post to Twitter or Facebook fairly regularly. While I enjoy the links to things I probably wouldn’t otherwise read, I’ve noticed that especially in the realm of Christian commentary a majority of pieces are largely based on criticism. Five things that are wrong with… Why __________ is wrong. What I don’t like about…
Now there is a place for criticism. Not all is right with the world and being thoughtful about things is a beneficial exercise. At the same time, it seems we followers of Jesus aren’t great at seeing the good in things. I admit this is often how I look at the world too. I am quick to point at the aspects of something I view as poor but slow to point out the parts that may be beneficial. Why is it that we are so critical?
We always think we could do something better, that our answers are right (often without exploring the thing we’re disparaging), and we subtly assert our intellectual and practical superiority over others. For example, I used to be very critical of large churches. I knew all the reasons they were evil, or at least less than, and enjoyed pointing out those problems. Now, while I have never been the pastor of a large church, just being a pastor makes you realize that there are difficulties with any form of church. I still have my preferences, but I also understand that it’s not as easy as I used to think.
The main thing I’m trying to work on in this regard is truly seeking understanding before leveling criticism against something or someone. Like I said before, there is a place for criticism, but that place is after true understanding, not before it.
Lack of Creativity.
Sometimes we pick on other things because we have nothing positive of our own to pursue. We have no imagination or creativity so we find the flaws in the imagination and creativity of others. I struggle to have respect for those who sit on the sidelines and disparage others when they are unwilling to get in the game themselves. Think the church is messed up? You’re probably right. So do something about it. Plant one of your own if you want. (And then soon you will find out people think you’re doing it wrong.) Upset with your city leaders? Find out how you can engage positively with things in the community.
In order for criticism to be valuable it has to arise out of investment. Criticism without investment is lazy and worthless.
There are times when our criticism comes out because we deeply care about a certain topic or people. This is good. There are things in the world that really matter and many of them are not as they should be. Before we level criticism I suggest we ask two questions. 1) Have I sought to truly understand the person/issue/organization I’m criticizing? 2) Am I willing to be a part of positive change if that opportunity becomes available. If we ask these questions first we’ll be much more likely to engage in criticism in ways that actually matter.