You know them as Debbie Downers, Charlie Criticals or just plain know-it-alls. They seem to have all of the answers without a willingness to do all of the work. The 5 x 5 Network even has a show dedicated to these folks called Hypercritical.
In short, critical people are all around us.
How do you know if you're one of them? Here are some signs:
-nothing seems to be good enough
-they return food often at restaurants
-they complain to hotel staffs
-they are quick to give advice, even if they aren't asked
-they like the phrase, "Have you ever thought about..."
-their faces don't look happy, often with deep lines on their foreheads and a recurring frown
-they can turn their praise on a dime into an attack, removing all loyalty from relationships
If you can relate to some of these signs, you're not alone. If we're honest, we all are probably too critical too much of the time.
The reason why this matters is that it relates profoundly to our spiritual lives. A critical person brushes up against pride when their "I know better" attitude expands and pride is a major problem.
My wife Cary told me once that I had "a problem". I thought, "this will be rich," but listened like an obedient husband anyway. She told me that my problem was that I always wanted things to be better. Not thinking that this really was a problem, I was still struck by her insight. I realized that my attitude needed to shift without my standards being compromised. It's good to want to improve things but it's bad if that's all you want out of life.
Think of it in terms of relationships: if you are friends with someone and always want to change them, you'll quickly find yourself alone. Work, family, prayer- much of this isn't about changing people but about working with them to achieve a higher good.
In my life, the result has been significant as I'm now more accepting and less judgmental. A work in progress, as they say.
The trick is not to lose sight of things when they need improvement but to see things through a spiritual lens. Love and accept first and evaluate and improve later. Now that's a formula that works even when life isn't perfect.
Question: when was the last time that you caught yourself being overly critical of someone else?
Photo courtesy of RZ