By Joanne Highley
Criticism is the act of passing severe judgment or of censuring someone or finding fault. There is, of course, constructive criticism, which is intended to upbuild and strengthen by pointing out places that need improvement or work, to give realistic judgment of someone's work or character so hidden faults can be revealed and cleared up. But the criticism we are dealing with in this article pertains to the first definition--that of severe judgment, strong or vehement expression of disapproval, condemnation, rebuke, reprimand or blame. This is a form of rejection that is very painful and harmful to anyone receiving it. It wilts the spirit and causes the head to droop. Many of our counselees have told me of the great harm done to their emotions by the withering words of criticism, spoken to them or about others every day. A large number felt they could never do anything right and such harsh criticism made them feel it was useless to try. Many times our counselees would not only have the sharp, harsh words of criticism, but also it would be accompanied by blows to the face or head, further reducing the person to a crying and pained child who felt so horrible that they were traumatized by this onslaught of abuse.
Many curses of words were laid on the child, such as stupid, faggot, fatso, waste, dummy, queer, patsy, weirdo, wee-wee bed. Some of the curses of words involved spiritual criticism such as "you have a black spot on your soul" or "you'll be sorry when I'm dead" or " I hope you have a child that treats you as badly as you treat me" or" There are little men in the trees that are going to get you" or "You caused your father's death" or "You'll be the death of me" or "I wish you had never been born."
Sometimes the criticism is so ongoing that even if it is about neighbors or "friends", the child begins to fear doing anything wrong for fear of coming under the mother's harsh judgment. There is such exaggeration and continual put-down that the child withdraws for fear of being found out. He or she wants the mother's love, but fears the judgment, so puts all emotions down inside for fear of criticism and rejection. There is a great fear of "getting into trouble" and especially if the child is having homosexual feelings, there is great stress and dread of being discovered.
Then as the child grows, more and more he or she will begin to criticize others. There starts a running line of criticism in the mind--a judgment of everyone and a desire to put down those around the child, especially if the child feels he is not as good as others. There will begin a constant comparison with others and feelings of inadequacy which will feel somewhat eased by the devaluing of the other person who has the looks or the grades or the popularity.
The constant comparison makes the child always feel less than others and the early name-calling will then begin to be the identity of the child. As he or she judges others harshly now the abused becomes the abuser. There can be a development of bad feelings of somehow getting revenge on the people who now are hurting the person, in his or her mind's eye. Many battles go on in the mind of the person doing the criticism. Many times this will be directed to an entire race or group of people. The sight of any of that race or group will set off a barrage of criticism in the brain and emotions of the person. Then the animosity will be seen by others and there will be harsh treatment in return. This can become a trap for the person who is caught in the practice of criticism which was learned at his or her mother's knee. More and more you are not happy, because you are always looking for other's faults so you can put them down, ridicule them or talk behind their back.
Then the criticism can begin to turn on God. You are not pleased with the way He is doing things and you begin to judge Him harshly and even shake your fist at Him. Or you may turn on yourself and begin to hate and judge yourself harshly. This is the state of many of our people at L.I.F.E. There is harsh judgment of self which then leads the person to sin in a vain attempt to take care of the awful feelings of guilt and shame that the judgment brings on them.
Are you in this trap? If so, it is time to break the power of criticism and harsh judgment whomever it may be against. It will make your life sour and give you much pain and choke out your love and good-will. Satan loves it because it keeps you unhappy and brings many ungodly feelings and upset. How much we all need encouragement, positive feed-back and mercy from each other. I have seen the benefit of simply writing a birthday card to our people and writing about the godly qualities and gifts of each one. It blesses me to do it and how many people tell me about what theseP cards mean to them and how they save them. Some say it was the only birthday card they received.
I remember when our grandson was a young boy and we had to praise him to get him to do anything because of the problem of autism. What a transformation those words of praise brought to the entire household. I can still hear Ron's voice saying, "Such a good boy" to him. I remember my own mother's words to me spoken so many times,"Joanne, how did you do that?"
Let's all put away our criticism and give encouragement. It is not easy but we can do it and it is worth the effort. The world is full of critics who want to tear down others---but so few encouragers. Let's give others a blast of blessing with our words and our notes of praise. Let's praise God every day and speak and sing of His great love and faithfulness even in times of trouble. Let's choose to love ourselves so we can love others.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Clean out the old place of harsh criticism and replace it with the warmth of appreciation, of giving a smile and of being the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere we go.
Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32