How to Criticize Criticism

How to Criticize Criticism

As human beings, we are naturally critical of everything. We criticize our living conditions, our morals, our standards, our government, and even our friends. The “mindset of common criticism” has become commonplace within our lives, something we act upon naturally but fail to analyze properly.

Standalone criticism is not inherently wrong, yet there are many situations in which it can be the most harmful action to commit, particularly within a setting of friends or family. Within the last five years alone, I have seen seemingly innocent criticism tear apart colleagues, friends, and family. It destroys workplaces, families, friend cliques, and churches.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that unnecessary criticism, masked behind a guise of innocence, is the leading cause to breaks in relationship. From divorce to band breakups, being fired to leaving your girlfriend/boyfriend, criticism breaks and destroys relationships.

Furthermore, destructive criticism goes hand-in-hand with perspective. How can you criticize if you don’t have a perspective? Perspective (or worldview, depending on how you look at it) is the foundation for good and bad criticism alike. Strong perspective reinforces the former, while weak perspective reinforces the latter.

Criticism and perspective are natural parts of humanity, originally good, yet corrupted by the Fall of man. Now, in an age where criticism is commonplace and perspective is generally weak, we have seemingly lost what it means to give good, necessary criticism, born on the back of a Godly perspective.

While criticism is global, it has also become a stronger aspect of specific cultures, namely the western (American) culture. After all, what would America be without criticism? Wasn’t the country born upon the backs of the government-critical Founding Fathers?

The answer is a timid “yes”, yet there is hope on the horizon. The criticism shown in the waking moments of America was necessary criticism. Had the Founding Fathers not had the spine to criticize the government of their day, America might never have been born.

Unfortunately, this has evolved into an ideology that is entirely commonplace within the United States. The belief that criticism is a necessary part of the American life is completely saturated into the culture. Children criticize their parents, adults criticize their bosses/coworkers, and everyone criticizes the government.

Within the last two situations, the answer is quite easy: nobody cares. I use this classic response anywhere necessary, particularly when someone thinks it necessary to begin a criticism of men like Donald Trump or Franklin Graham.

Nobody cares. Literally not a single soul even gives a walnut what you think about Donald Trump.

“Nobody cares. Literally not a single soul even gives a walnut what you think about Donald Trump.”

Yet some criticism is necessary, particularly within the boundaries of close friendship. This qualification is extremely necessary, and for good reason. Have you ever tried criticizing someone you just met? It’s an excellent way to get punched in the teeth.

Necessary criticism within close relationship, on the other hand, can be helpful. I have grown in ways I never would have imagined, thanks to the help of my closest friends. They balance criticism with uplifting, gracious comments. They are constantly aware of my feelings, and even if I feel that they are against me, they are willing to graciously tell me how I can grow.

Graciousness and godliness are the two building blocks of necessary criticism. You cannot be a good friend if you are not gracious and godly at all times. This is an impossible task, of course, since we are all human and we have bad days, but one that has become a key pursuit of mine.

Within relationships, there are three major tips to help keep criticism necessary and Godly.

1: For every one thing you criticize, find two things to build up. Following a singular criticism with two compliments/uplifting comments is massive. Recently, I became massively hurt by a huge amount of criticism from a single friend who neglected to follow it up with any uplifting comments whatsoever. I cannot emphasize this enough: If you are going to criticize someone, build them up at the same time.

All criticism should be followed by uplifting, positive comments.

2: Ask for another perspective to the criticism. It is easy for a singular perspective to become crooked, but the combined perspective of two is a powerful thing. Before giving any criticism, ask for counsel from a friend, parent, or spouse.

3: Ensure that your criticism is not given out of anger. If this is the case, you will not be received well. Going back to the situation I mentioned in the first tip- criticism was given in anger, and I was hurt deeply. Relationship was broken, and something was lost.

Be careful in your criticism. Be loving. Be gracious. Provide only necessary criticism. Build your friends up. Talk to God. And, above all- be Godly.

Alright, that’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

-Elisha McFarland

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13 thoughts on “How to Criticize Criticism

  1. In my experience, there are a lot of times when folks are critical of a person when what they are really upset about is something else entirely. They yell at a clerk when what they really are upset about is a policy the clerk had no role in establishing but is required to observe. They yell at their spouse, when what they are really upset about are events at work. They are finding a scapegoat for things they need to change or identify ways to work around. Treating other human beings as a source of catharsis is a subset of the larger problem of using people as a means to an end rather than an end in themselves, as Christ instructs us.

    Liked by 4 people

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