Have you ever said something that when it rolled out of your mouth, you immediately thought, “Oh, if I could just get that back and stick it right back in there”?
Have you ever been there? I certainly have!
The words we use don’t always have the effect we want.
Sometimes words meant to spur people on toward action, fall on deaf ears and immobilize people.
Sometimes the words we use to encourage someone are interpreted as patronizing or condescending.
Sometimes we don’t know what words to use and we choose ones that end up doing more harm than good.
These are mistakes that all of us make because we’re human. We’re not perfect. Even with the best of intentions we will still mess up in our choices of words from time to time.
But, in this post, I am not going to be talking about the times that we slip-up and use the wrong words. I am not so much concerned with the accidental misunderstandings that are bound to happen between two human-beings trying to communicate.
What I am more concerned about is our deliberate words of criticism. You know, the words that come out of our mouths that hurt other people.
We say things like:
- I wish you were never born.
- You’re so lazy.
- You’re such a bum.
- I want a divorce.
- I hate you.
- I can’t stand this marriage anymore.
We need to recognize when we are speaking words of criticism.
3 ways criticism reveals itself in our lives:
The writer of Proverbs said this about jealousy in Proverbs 14:30,
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
I want you to imagine the inside of your body rotting away. Not a pleasant picture but that is what the writer is trying to tell us.
Envy and jealousy rot away at the inside of us. They rot away at our spirit and our soul. They turns us into bitter, negative and critical people.
Here’s how it starts. Let’s say you’ve got a friend who drives a junker car. It’s a total piece of junk and they desperately need to get a newer car. One day, this friend calls you and says, “Hey, I’m so excited. I’ve been saving. I’ve been working hard and I got a new car. I can’t wait to show it to you. I’m going to bring it right over.”
So your friend pulls into your driveway in their new car. When you see it you are blown away because they now have a very nice car. As a matter of fact, they are now driving a car that is nicer than yours and you are beginning to feel a little jealous. And because you are feeling jealous you say something like this: “Great car. Awesome. Incredible. Wouldn’t have picked that color though but yeah that’s a good car.”
Did you catch the subtle or not so subtle criticism?
Just a little dig comes out in the comment because you are jealous and you can’t be happy for your friend. Now, all of a sudden, instead of your friend feeling good about their new car they are looking at that color going, “Hmmmmmmmmm.”
This is where we only see what is wrong with everything. This is what it may look like for some of us. Maybe you’ve had a rough day at work. Your boss has been ragging on you all day. You head home and you are still feeling a little irritated. You pull into the neighborhood and you’re thinking: “Man, I hope there’s something hot to eat.”
Now, let me give you the flip side of the picture – what is going on inside of the house. Your wife has been working hard all day. She’s been loving on the kids all day. She knows you are coming home and she’s thinking, “I’m going to get dinner ready. I’m going to have a pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy and it’s going to be steaming hot. It’s going to be good.”
Here’s the deal: your wife has been working real hard and you come walking in and you see the pot roast. You see the mashed potatoes. You see the kids. Then you scan left and you see the living room and it’s a little cluttered.
You see a laundry basket with clean clothes that haven’t been folded yet and you look at your wife and say: “What have you been doing all day? I go out there and I work hard so you can stay at home and I come home to this mess? What in the world is going on?”
And your wife, who has worked so hard getting ready to have you come home is totally crushed now. You are just chipping away at her.
Sarcasm is the most deceiving of all the forms of criticism. We think that we are being funny. We think: “Oh, that doesn’t really hurt anybody. Nobody really believes that stuff. They don’t really feel it.”
But all along, those little digs, those little jabs, those little chips are killing people. They are hurting people.
Those little sarcasm’s, those little digs, those little opportunities to be cute and funny are really little shots. Ouch! They are chipping away at people and it is tearing them down.
This is something that I struggle with. Sometimes I forget the power of my words. What I think is harmless – really isn’t. It is cutting people. It is hurting them. It is taking little shots at them.
Which of these 3 forms of criticism do you struggle with the most?