“I saw that.” My boyfriend—now husband—was staring me down from the dining hall sofa.
“Saw what?” I said. I hadn’t been paying attention.
“How you looked at that girl who just walked by. You were totally criticizing her outfit.”
I unwrapped my sandwich nonchalantly, replying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It was all over your face. You didn’t like her outfit, and I could tell.”
That wasn’t the first time my husband called me out on my criticism, and it wasn’t the last. Criticism had become almost second nature to me. While I didn’t always speak critically, I was well versed in judgment of the appearance, behavior and beliefs of others. What I didn’t know was just how damaging my “harmless” habit really was.
Because our technological society thrives on exposure, we have all been made judges of what is fashionable, appropriate and cool. We are accustomed to a world of likes and double taps. We are used to critically examining the things around us, but when we transition from things to people, it’s hard to stop.
It might seem harmless to do a silent once-over-twice on your coworker’s outfit or to text your bestie your latest judgment of your ex’s new girlfriend, but these criticisms are doing more damage than meets the eye. A critical spirit doesn’t just hurt others when voiced aloud; it silently damages our hearts and limits our potential—both personally and spiritually.
What does criticizing others do? First, it creates a mental environment of negativity. Judgmental thoughts need a continual “feed” of information to thrive. Criticism trains our minds to look for the bad in others rather than the good. This in turn cultivates division in our relationships. If allowed to fester, division and judgment give way to full-blown conflict.
When you can’t think the best of others, the inevitable result will be poor quality relationships. If your friendships are riddled with drama or you spend most of your time stalking, judging or talking about others, it’s time to do a heart check! Are you being critical or encouraging? Judgmental or kind?
Criticism limits us from real friendship by focusing on the failures of others. It discourages us from helping others, but also discourages others from approaching us. This is because critical attitudes are never as hidden as we think. Judgmental people are easy to identify. As Christian women, we should desire to bring people together, not drive them apart.
How can we reverse a critical outlook? First, we need to take a positive view of others. Give the benefit of the doubt. Reach out. Think the best in every situation. Taking a positive view of people can have a phenomenal impact on your overall attitude, and what’s more, it makes you a nicer, more likeable person! Believing in others proves you have faith in their character and ability, and that’s a big draw in relationships.
Rejecting criticism creates unity. It encourages a give-and-take in friendships, inciting others to rally alongside you rather than react to your judgment with some of their own. Though some people won’t treat you with the same respect you offer them, doing the right thing is worth the effort.
Defeating criticism benefits others. But it also benefits us! Part of walking in faith means putting faith in the fallible people around us, offering them second chances and a hand up instead of the iron fist of judgment. In releasing judgment into God’s hands we are free to love others the way He intended: with mercy, compassion and kindness. That’s when we realize our full potential as daughters of a loving God.