As not-yet-perfected members of the familia Dei, we need to build health and intimacy into our relationships by redemptively critiquing one another. Most of the time, our criticizing will be sinful and we need to confess and apologize for harboring a critical attitude towards each other. Because of the law that “when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (Rom. 7: 21), there should be a general hesitancy to take your critiques against someone seriously.
However, having a love-infused, gospel-minded, critical eye on our brothers and sisters, our church, and our society can actually be a means of sanctification for all. (That is, as long as your critiques are shared with the appropriate people only.)
Critiques are not necessary, but probably innevitable
A critique tends to be softer and less urgent than a rebuke. Critiques are not necessary, but probably innevitable. Leaving them unsaid can be harmful for relationships in the family of God, because critiques left unsaid tend to develop into bitterness, ill will, or feelings of superiority.
On the other hand, critiques are often glimpses of a deeper sin which pokes its head in annoying little ways; in which case, it can be helpful to lovingly share what you see or feel in a brother or sister.
A critical posture, in a healthy and intimate relationship, is nothing more than having a vision for the future of the other person (which has issues, of course: think of your critical parent who envisions that you will be a doctor). However, the opposite of a critical posture is a passive relationship, which isn’t beneficial for either party.
If you’re like me, finding criticisms in people, books, and institutions is innevitable. It is incredibly important for me to 1) listen to my wife when she says I’m being too critical, 2) prayerfully steep on a given critique before speaking it, 3) share it with whomever it involves, and 4) be prepared to talk it through gently with him or her.
When I’m prayerfully steeping on a criticism, I need to consider a few things about the person:
- What is his or her story? Have I listened well in the past?
- He or she is different than me, so is it just strange or is it sin?
- Does he or she already know about this? If so, is it necessary for me to tell him again?
- How do I anticipate his or her response? Are they ready to hear this?
How to respond to your critics
On the receiving end, it is important to think through how to graciously respond when someone criticizes you.
- Theological – I simply have to accept the conflict if we
have differing beliefs about an essential issue.
- Jealous of Success – I need to lovingly serve them
- Misinformed – I need to try and inform them of the truth.
- Personal Dislike (e.g., tone, humor, style) – I need to
consider their criticism, seek godly counsel, and either change or ignore them.
- Legitimate (e.g., sin) – I need to repent publicly and
thank God for using my critics to sanctify me.
- Take Up Offense for Another Person – I need to rebuke them
Bottom line: open, honest communication within the family is a staple to growing in grace and intimacy together. Brothers and sisters fight, get annoyed, and love each other through it all. We don’t have to pretend that we never annoy the crap out of each other. If we do, we’re not family and we won’t grow in grace.