Criticism can be such a destructive force in any kind of relationship. Even amongst Christians who should be known for love, mercy and grace, there are plenty of examples of sniping and self-righteousness. Some of the worst examples involve gossip, Facebook rants and anonymous online posts which can quickly spread malicious rumours that unfairly question people’s motives and hide behind self-entitled offences. Of course, the best way forward may be with deliberate positivity, but there is also a need for people to help stamp out unhealthy criticism when their friends and family practise it.
Here are a few suggestions to handling this problem.
- Think ‘private’. Jesus Himself said to speak to others first. I once told a public critic who said his ‘target’ wouldn’t return calls, that this didn’t warrant escalation by denigration! To his credit, he tried to call, but with an apologetic tone; he got through and they reconciled! Most times, our issues are not other people’s business; sometimes, they’re not even ours.
- When you need others, keep it objective. A solution-focused response doesn’t just need sympathisers, but people who can ask objective questions, even of us; people who don’t gossip and who have some bridges with the person concerned. If you can’t gain a private audience with or without such friends or mediators, it’s time to leave it to the powers that be. Keep short accounts, life is too precious.
- Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Good people seldom lie, but they will present a slant on facts and present partial facts. They can also mishear and misunderstand and then relay this as ‘truth’. Glossy publications and fancy webpages can look convincing and well-researched, too, but what is actually quoted and what extra questions should be asked to qualify the information?
- Resist the temptation to be Jesus’ defendant. Hillsong haters, Bethel bashers, Lakewood loathers… critics tend to believe that they are protectors of truth and then marshal sympathisers and Scriptures to back their efforts. Any justification in their concern is undone by their methods and by overlooking the good in the people and organisations they smear. Often, critics misapply the Bible and have little understanding of the organisations or the motives they rail against.
As a Christian, I feel obligated to keep my frustrations to a small circle and to preserve unity, to see the good in others. I am not God’s umpire! This perspective actually keeps me healthy and positive, focusing on what is within my sphere of influence. When the sky is falling, we can be all too easily distracted from what we should be doing by picking or entering fights over which aren’t our concern and in we don’t have all the information. In a shrinking globe with myriad problems, we so often just need to… let go and live!