What to do when I’m tempted to criticize

ephesians 4-32

My friend was crying and telling me she felt like a total flake.  Life had been crazy, filled with mistakes and missed appointments, misplaced papers, forgotten promises, everything lost and mixed up and wrong.

I love my friend and I got it. Truly, I did.  I nodded my head and encouraged her while other shoppers pushed their carts past us in the grocery story.

But inside, in the secret places of my mind and heart, that compassion wasn’t complete.  It was hollow, pat-her-on-the-back kind of friendship–the kind that is sorry she had a bad week, but fell short of true understanding or free-flowing grace.

The truth was, deep down, I was judging her as much as she judged herself.  And it was ugly.

Forgetting, missing, losing, making mistakes? It sounded like a too-busy schedule and an absent organizational system.  Maybe a few files and a day planner could save the day.

Two weeks later, I was sobbing at my kitchen table.  It had been a week of misplaced papers and missing items—not little insignificant things—BIG things, like legal documents and DMV paperwork.

For someone generally in control and on top of things, the week had been devastatingly humbling.

Then, I felt the deeper challenge.

God never lets me get away with passing silent judgment or criticism on another.  Never.

Nor should He.

The very moment I start internally critiquing another mom or putting another friend in a labeled box based on her mistakes and weaknesses, I know God will be at work in my life, bringing me to my knees to ask for forgiveness.

Because I need a Savior.

Because I’m a mess, too!

I’m not perfect and my life isn’t perfect and the thing we all need as moms and as women and as flaw-filled humans is heaping loads of grace and compassion, not quiet judgment or silent criticism.

We stumble into the judge’s seat so easily, thinking we know the people around us:

The frazzled-looking momma with the crying baby in Wal-Mart.
The parents whose teenager disappeared from church.
The couple who met with the divorce lawyers last week.
The husband and wife holding the bankruptcy paperwork.
The family with the nice new car and large house.
Those who homeschool (or don’t).
Those who have large families (or small).
The mom who commutes every day to work (and the one who doesn’t.)
The highly fashionable woman next to you in church, with perfectly polished nails, a size 4 waist, and a wardrobe that looks like it costs more than your house (or the one in jeans and a t-shirt).

As long as we’re quiet about it, after all, there seems little harm.  It’s only in our heart, only our own private thoughts of criticism.

Maybe it spills over occasionally into snarky remarks and private jibes with like-minded friends, but mostly we control the collateral damage.

Yet, isn’t that the picture of the pharisees in Luke 5?

Scripture tells us: “One day Jesus was teaching and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there” (Luke 5:17).

They had front row seats, a privileged view of the hurting crowd.

They watched four friends carrying a man on a mat and lowering him down through the ceiling.  They watched as Jesus healed him, saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).

While the man and his friends rejoiced and the crowd marveled, others remained unmoved:

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).

They were just “thinking to themselves.”  They weren’t gossiping or heckling Jesus.  They didn’t hop up then and there to condemn Him.

It was just an internal dialogue, a private moment of judgment and condemnation.

But, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?‘” (Luke 5:22).

Even our most secretive judgments of others have an audience—Jesus Himself.  

Would He also be disappointed about what I’m thinking in my heart?

After all, judgment that doesn’t appear on protest signs or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds is still judgment and it still hurts.

Instead of criticizing or labeling others when I see them struggling or hurting, I should be drawn to intense and consistent intercession, praying for them rather than picking at them.

As Oswald Chambers wrote:

‘God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.’

I should be slow to condemn and quick to pray for others.

The truth is I’m desperately in need of the grace Christ has poured out on me, and if I need that kind of grace, then I need to show that kind of grace: unhindered, unqualified, unmarred by an undercurrent of criticism and condescension.

Just grace.

Beautiful, pure, deep down honest grace.

(Author’s note: Of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t discern or judge right from wrong, sin from not-sin, etc.)

Lessons from the 5-year-old on prayer

romans 12-12
I put my hand on the back of my five-year-old to usher her into the minivan.

She does not move.

My lecture about wasting time and ‘please can you hurry because we don’t want to be late!’ catches in my throat when I glance at her.

Her head is bowed, her eyes squeezed shut.  Her hands are clasped and tucked under her chin.

She is praying.

I lean down and hear the whisper:

Dear God, please help the person who is hurt and help the fire truck make them safe and all better.  Amen.

Oh, now I hear them: The sirens in a distance that I’d been blocking out with busy thoughts and Mom-instructions to “get your seatbelts on quickly” and “take turns sitting in the middle seat” and “make sure you have all your stuff.”

You know.  Life.

Life crowded out the need, crowded out others.  It tunneled my vision so I saw only my agenda, heard only my voice, pushed and shoved and crammed right up to the Father with only my own needy self in mind.

As parents, my husband and I have had our more spiritual moments.  We’ve been driving before and hushed the general din of six people (including a baby) in the minivan so we could pray about the fire truck or the ambulance passing us on the road.

My girl took this to heart.  She tucked it into her soul and now she watches and listens and drops her head down the instant she senses the need to pray.

She even stopped the mad dash to the middle seat of the minivan and let her sisters rush in to claim the prime spots in order to pause and pray.

She let go of self.  She focused on another.

Maybe my husband and I taught her the principle, but this kindergarten prayer powerhouse teaches me to get down on my knees and beg for God to help me see.

Because somehow there’s this automatic pull of humanity back to self.  Somehow the noise within us drowns out the noise without….so we no longer hear the cries of need from a needy world.

Somehow we lose the eyes of God, the ears of God, the heart of God.

Yet, Moses teaches me to see others with God’s vision.

He stood on a holy mountain preparing to die.  Moses was not to enter the Promised Land and he knew God’s intentions to take him up a mountain that he would never climb down.

But his eyes were for the people of Israel.  He could have asked for a legacy.  He could have begged for forgiveness and the chance to step at least one weary foot onto Canaan’s soil.

He didn’t.

Instead, he prayed:

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd (Numbers 27:16-17 ESV)

Long before Jesus, Moses stood overlooking the crowd and saw them with God’s eyes as sheep that have no shepherd.

Centuries later, Jesus Himself stood and saw this same need:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36 ESV).

Moses got it, really got it.  Got right to the heart of the matter, right to the need in front of his face and put aside his own affairs—he was, after all, moments from death—-in order to intercede on behalf of God’s people.

His heart matched God’s own heart.

He had 20/20 vision in that moment, not cataracts of selfishness marring his perspective.

Selfishness takes up time and takes up space; it muscles out God and keeps us from loving others.

Today, let’s lay it down.

And let us pray:

Lord, give me Your heart today.
Don’t let me be blinded to need and deaf to the cries of others.
Show me how to bless another.
May I be sensitive to the needs of others so I can be generous and compassionate.
I lay aside selfishness so I can live a life motivated by kindness and ruled by love.
Less of me, Lord. More of You.
Be glorified.
Amen.

prayerlovingothers

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King