Criticism is not a reflection of the person or thing being criticized; rather, it's a reflection of the critic. Is it gentle? Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it truthful? Is it constructive? Is it fair? Is it necessary? Is it harsh? Is it cruel? Is it disparaging? Is it destructive?
Why do I so often jump to negative, critical thoughts? Tonight I was thinking of the Britney Spears madness, and of someone I know who miscarried a few months ago and is pregnant again and smoking... and my initial reaction to both situations was, "What is wrong with her? How stupid can you be?"
But when I look at these thoughts in context of the above questions - is it kind, helpful, necessary? - I'm convicted that I need to be a more gracious person. Instead of criticizing, I need to pray. I don't know the secret struggles of these people... their actions may be questionable, but so is my attitude.
It makes me think of Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS." (The capitals are mine.)
When I looked this verse up, the verses preceding it convicted me once again of my bad attitudes towards other people, myself, and life in general. Philippians 4:4-7 says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
As someone who struggles with depression, I am prone to always seeing the negative, and of becoming discouraged and downhearted, leading to depression and despair. These verses remind me that I need to have an attitude of gratitude - look at all I have to be thankful for in my life! That I need to take my worries to God and trust Him to take care of things that I cannot in my human limitedness... He is bigger than all of it, and He is in control and capable of handling it. I am weak, but He is strong. Instead of focusing on the darkness, I need to focus on the light.
I hope next time I'm being critical, I'll stop and reflect on what my thoughts or words are reflecting about me, and think before I unnecessarily or cruelly hurt someone... and hurt myself, by feeding the darkness inside me and in the world with my negative attitude.