The Word

The Measuring Stick of Criticism

By Charles Newbold Jr.

Have you ever wondered why we suffer some of the things we do? Health issues? Emotional anguishes? Financial woes? Relationship problems?

Many of our problems are the obvious result of such things as overeating, over-spending, over-drinking, over-smoking, over-doing it and physical inactivity.  Good self-help programs exist that can help us deal with many of these problems when self-discipline seems to fail us.

There is one cause of suffering we never think about.  It may be the culprit behind more of our problems than we want to admit.  It is called criticism.

Jesus said that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out (Matthew 15:11). Press the pause button here for a moment and think about what kinds of words spew out of your mouth.  James wrote that out of the mouth comes both blessing and cursing, though this ought not to be the case (James 3:10).  Then, there is that troubling principle Jesus warned about in Matthew 7:1-2. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (NAS).  Lord have mercy on us!  Criticism is a form of being judgmental.

“But I don’t think I judge others,” we might think.  Even if we are not given to criticism, there are more subtle ways we judge others.  We judge others whenever we think we are better than they.  Perhaps we think we are better than they because we make more money, we are of a certain ethnic or racial group (as if we had anything to do about that choice), we belong to the right club, we go to the right church or we have the right politics.

When we are critical or judgmental of another, we set ourselves up as a judge over them.  We hold up a measuring stick and declare that they do not measure up.

But here’s the “gotcha!”  We are the ones holding up that measuring stick, right?  That means we are standing right next to it.  That means the stick by which we measure others is measuring us as well.  Chances are we won’t measure up either.

Moreover, we will likely be tested to see if we measure up.  Critically judging others will in itself put us on the short end of that stick.  The criticisms/judgments we make of others boomerang on us; hence, we unnecessarily bring trouble upon ourselves.

What’s the solution?  First, we humble ourselves and repent.  Admit the truth.  Then, stop criticizing.  Stop making judgments.

Secondly, pray for God to “deliver us from this evil.”

Thirdly, our conscience may demand we seek forgiveness.  We begin by asking for God’s forgiveness.  Then, we forgive ourselves.  The hardest part is to go to that person we criticized and confess our violation to them, asking for their forgiveness.  We don’t just say, “I’m sorry.”  They already know that.  They don’t have to respond to that.  But when you say, “Forgive, me,” they have to respond one way or the other.  At least we will have done our part.

Fourthly, every time we catch ourselves criticizing, we repeat steps one through three.  The more we have to ask forgiveness, the more likely we are to stop the craziness.  “Resist the devil and he will flee” (James 4:7).

Charles Elliott Newbold, Jr. has served as pastor, teacher and is the author of several books and numerous articles calling forth Christians to live the laid-down life for Jesus Christ. He and his wife, Nancy McDonald Newbold live in Knoxville, Tennessee where Charles continues his writing.


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