NO ONE LIKES A CRITIC

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I have a strong dislike for being criticized, don’t you? No one likes it. We want to be liked and accepted for who we are, the way we are.

However, there are those in our life who feel as if they have been anointed as God’s policeman, ever ready to point out the slightest misstep of another.

Criticism, by its very nature, is usually non-accepting; and often, that is the motivation behind much of the criticism leveled at someone.

Most of us don’t mind sitting around the table at a restaurant and listening to and participating in the criticism flung at our government or the weekend’s loss of a game to an otherwise unworthy opponent.

However, when the critic takes aim at us, well…

The Bible gives us numerous ideas about criticism and how to handle it. We find a major example from King David as he was being criticized.

(2Sa 16:13) So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust.

Shimei was a despicable character, having nothing nice to say about David at all—until he came face-to-face with the king. (That hasn’t happened to any of us, I’m sure.)

David’s men wanted to slay Shimei, but David would have none of it. He said, “If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” (2Sa 16:10)

Jesus, too, was unjustly criticized, yet he “opened not His mouth” in response. (Isa. 53:7)

Consider these verses from Proverbs that tell us how to handle criticism.

(Pro 13:18) If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored.

(Pro 15:31) If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.

(Pro 29:1) Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery.

We are told that if we listen to and accept criticism, we have the chance to be among the wise and to be honored. If we ignore or refuse criticism, we have the chance to be humiliated.

Which would you prefer?

Our default mode is to bristle at any and all criticism.

How about taking a middle-ground approach, and consider the possibility that—EVERY CRITICISM of you, your methods, actions, beliefs, or statements deserves at least a moment’s consideration.

There may be an element of truth regardless of the motivation of the critic.

THE SECOND GAZE

How easily our prejudices cloud our judgment. If only we could see clearly from the outset.

Do you SEE this

Woman?

“The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How does my self-image demand that I react to this?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads to an implosion of self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended” can we immediately (or at least more quickly) stand with and for the other, and for the moment.” (Richard Rohr in Daily Meditations, 1/1/21)

When I read that, I am reminded of Jesus at Simon’s house. Simon was a Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner. When Jesus was at the table, a woman of the street came in and anointed Him and washed His feet. Simon had not offered this common courtesy to Jesus.

“Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” (Lk. 7:44)

DO YOU SEE THIS WOMAN?

Simon saw a sinner and immediately went to judgment about her and Jesus.

Jesus saw a sinner and immediately went with compassion.

All too often I find my identity with Simon rather than with Jesus.

Hypocrisy?

Maybe. But it is not intentional nor practiced. It is the result of decades of believing that pleasing God meant that I must protect my personal sanctity and defend God’s name. That became my default mode.

I am learning a new methodology—that of grace.

Only the second gaze sees fully and truthfully

Father Rohr continues–
“In the second gaze, critical thinking and compassion are finally coming together. It is well worth waiting for, because only the second gaze sees fully and truthfully. It sees itself, the other, and even God with God’s own eyes, the eyes of compassion, which always move us to act for peace and justice. But it does not reject the necessary clarity of critical thinking, either. Normally, we start with dualistic thinking, and then move toward nondual for an enlightened response. As always, both/and!”

May I learn to not stop with the first gaze, but to take time to really see.