Three Kinds of Criticism

There are three kinds of criticism, all of them socially unacceptable.

A. Hypocritical criticism, which Jesus condemned in Matt.7:1-5. If you are guilty of the same flaw, you must not criticize other people, because they won't listen. Yesterday you referred to something in the sermon about forgiving other people. Although you did not identify any such thing in my case, it sounded like you intended it as a criticism of me. A few minutes later I asked if you had applied the same standard to yourself in the matter of [____], and you vehemently denied it. That is pure hypocrisy, and it invalidates your criticism.

B. False accusation, condemned by God in the Ten Commandments [Ex.20:16]. I recently went through a brouhaha with a friend over this issue, so I am particularly sensitive to it. He later decided that being my friend was more important to him than the priviledge of lying to me. In the past I told you that false accusation is not a good way to obtain services from your providers. That is still true. Voluntary or optional services will not happen in a context of angry and false accusation. Not from me, not from anybody. Furthermore, I am unwilling to listen to criticism of anybody not present (gossip), especially when it's false (as it was yesterday). American law assumes a person is innocent until proven guilty, and it's a good principle: if you cannot prove your charge with objective evidence, it's probably false. If it makes you angry, you can't even think clearly to know if it's true or false. In my opinion, you need to get this matter under control as you become more and more dependent on other people's goodwill.

C. Everything else (which isn't much). Nobody (yourself included) likes criticism, and it usually makes them angry and unhelpful. They (not I) often call it "legalism" or other not-so-nice epithets. There are polite ways to call attention to problems that need fixing, but even those are generally unwelcome. If at all possible, you should just let it go, especially with people on whose goodwill you depend for services. Paul calls this virtue "contentment" in Phil.4:12. I personally welcome honest and helpful criticism, but if you have trouble distinguishing the good stuff from hypocrisy or hostile (untrue) guesswork, you'd be better off avoiding it altogether.

I learned this same hostile critical attitude from the training I received as a child, but 27 years ago God put me into a difficult situation which taught me to keep Phil.4:8 at the front of my thinking: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." I don't always succeed, but I consider it really good advice. You might find it helpful to try doing the same.

Tom Pittman
2007 September 17