Withholding Criticism

It is the flaws we perceive in others that reflect those we fear about ourselves.

Poor man eating sandwich

How quick we are to criticize others. It appears to be in our nature to criticize others to feel better about ourselves.

Yet, in truth, it is the flaws we perceive in others that reflect those we fear about ourselves.

Studies have confirmed that “when people were led to believe they had a negative trait, they were more likely to see this negative trait in others. And further, in doing so, they were less likely to think they had the trait themselves.” (Psychology Today, Nathan A Heflick, Ph.D, August 6, 2011). “This is consistent with research showing that when our self-esteem is threatened… we are more likely to degrade others.”

The Bible teaches us to withhold our criticism of others, perhaps for these reasons. Rather, the Bible stresses the need for self-evaluation before criticizing others. For only by withholding criticism of others, will we be in a position to help ourselves overcome our shortcomings and be in a better position to help those around us.

Don’t criticize, and then you won’t be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own? Should you say, ‘Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

When you feel compelled to criticize another, try instead to look inward and to ask yourself why your emotions are being aroused. “Chances are they stir some kind of insecurity or uncertainty deep in yourself. Perhaps they reflect a trait you dislike about yourself. Perhaps you envy them for something.” (“Why It’s Important to Understand That We Hate Others for What We Hate About Ourselves.” Patrick Hessman, March 7, 2017)

Before criticizing others, the Bible encourages us to look in the mirror. If we are honest with ourselves, most of the time we will be able to identify an issue underlying our desire to criticize others highlighted by negative emotions stirred within us. By accepting ownership of our issues instead of projecting them onto someone else, we will be in a better position to improve ourselves and gain the insights necessary to better help those around us. And we may avoid hurting another person unintentionally or unnecessarily.

In other words, “Do for others what you would want them to do for you. This is the teaching of Moses in a nutshell.” (Matthew 7:12)


Photo by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

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