Fault-finding words can hurt feelings

Joan Clayton: Religion Columnist

“I really wanted this shoe leather on my boots,” he grumbled. That ruffled my feathers.

My husband could have said, “You really cooked this piece of ham well.”  Helping him work in the yard was his fault! I thought. When I saw him sharpen a cutting knife and then attack that piece of ham like a chain saw, I couldn’t help but laugh.

It’s hard for me to deal with criticism. Keeping my cool when criticized is emotionally draining. OK, so I left the ham in the oven too long.

“Let’s not waste it. Go ahead and tack it on your boot!” Now he laughed.

I’ve discovered flaws I find in others are flaws I see in myself. I asked God one time to let me see my flaws and I didn’t pray that prayer again. What I saw brought a profound realization of “the beam in my own eye.”  (Luke 6:42)  Since that time I have tried to learn from criticism but if I become defensive, things gets out of control and I become upset. It’s much better to keep quiet than to retaliate. A fire started is hard to put out!

In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus tells us to look within ourselves instead of criticizing others. Looking at my own faults motivates me to forgive others and overlook their offenses. Besides if I send out criticism, it returns to me. “If I give it, I receive it.”

By trying to consider criticism as a kindness, (hard for me to do) I can learn something. Emmitt’s comment about “shoe leather” helped me to learn to cook. Instead of a snappy, curt reply that hurts feelings, listening to others can be a path of wisdom.

Criticism comes in many forms. Reacting to it in the wrong way brings defeat.

King David’s faith in God allowed him to ignore the critical words and jeers from the crowd. He knew his God. His overwhelming trust in God enabled him to
perform amazing exploits. When people criticized and found fault in him, David “encouraged himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6  KJV).

We have the “sword of the Spirit,” God’s Word, and “a soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 KJV).

Critical words can follow a path to peace or a continual strife. The wrong kinds of words take away our joy and zest for living, leading to depression and anxiety. Words have power, power to hurt or power to heal. Kind words promote a cheerful outlook.

Optimism looks upon difficulties as challenges, an opportunity for God to show himself strong.

Critical comments can be dangerous. Miriam complained about Moses’ wife and was stricken with leprosy. (Numbers 12:10) Korah and his followers led the people to rebel against God and as a result the earth swallowed them and their families. (Numbers 16:32) Michal remained childless because she despised David’s dancing before the Lord. (1 Chronicles 15:29). Some boys came out of the city and made fun of Elisha and “two mother bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys to pieces” 2 Kings 2:24 (NCV).

When negative, critical comments come your way, do what is right anyway. God’s opinion of you is all that matters. “He (Jesus) never sinned, never told a lie, never answered back when insulted, when he suffered he did not threaten to get even, he left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly”  (1 Peter 2:22-23 TLB).

We can avoid destructive criticism. Overlook offenses. Getting even pays a high price. Simply forgive and leave the rest to God.

Love enables us to see the good in others, thereby blocking critical remarks and cynicism.

That’s a lot better than calling my cooking “shoe leather!”