If someone says or does something that bugs us, we have three possible responses.
We can criticize to his/her face or to others or both. A criticism is voicing and expressing disapproval, finding fault with behavior.
I don’t know about you, but I rarely see my criticism of someone change his/her behavior. In fact, often it creates a bigger problem that then has to be addressed. Criticism, 99% of the time, is expressed so we can feel better about ourselves and the fact that we would not do whatever the perpetrator did. Of course, we all know that’s not really true.
Yes, most often, complaining is just the voice of criticism. But with complaining, we are often simply dissatisfied temporarily with something, not necessarily disapproving over-all. If my steak isn’t cooked like I ordered it, I can complain to the waiter, but I may not be disapproving of the entire meal or the restaurant. If you tell a co-worker he/she needs to clean up a report before you can do your part, that is a complaint of the project, not so much criticism of the co-worker. But regarding people, complaining is often the result of or the road toward criticism.
This is when we choose to go past or go deeper than criticism or complaining and look into why something is happening. Of course, we aren’t going to inquire if the cook has had a bad day if our steak isn’t cooked right, but concern can temper how we handle the situation with the waiter. For the co-worker, we may need to go past the project and say, “Hey, usually you give me reports ready to go. Are you alright? Is anything stressing you?”
For the Christian, a complaint should be seasoned with grace. We shouldn’t make people’s bad days worse. We should be the bright spots.
In light of Scripture and the bigger picture of life, criticism has little place in the Christian’s vocabulary. We may never rid ourselves of it, but we can diminish it, as we grow closer to Jesus.
For the Christ follower, concern for others should always override any desire to criticize or complain. I invite you to join me as I work on #3 and try and put #2 and #1 in the rearview mirror, by God’s grace.
Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. —Philippians 2:1-3 CEV