Are you ever accused of being critical when you don’t think you are?
That happened to me recently. My grown daughter was telling me about a new healthy eating plan her friend is trying. Now granted, I’ve heard of nearly every “new diet” there is for most of my life and it would be easy to be critical of the next one. But honestly, I wanted to hear more about it. And as one who processes verbally, I was asking lots of questions and making summary statements to make sure I understood what she was saying. To my daughter (and my husband, too, who overheard the conversation), I was “being critical” and “looking for something wrong” in what she was saying.
Has that ever happened to you? You honestly are just having a conversation and someone gets blown out of shape by what they think is your negative reaction? Worse yet, could you have come across as critical many times and no one bothered to tell you?
When I was writing my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I was shocked to discover that most daughters, regardless of their ages, believed their mothers were extremely critical, when those same moms had no idea their daughters perceived them that way. That showed me, back in 2013 when I wrote that book, how easy it is for not just a mom, but any woman, to come across as critical and not be aware of it. I tucked that knowledge away back then, so you can imagine my surprise when my daughter called me out on a critical tone that I thought I had become aware of by then.
My first reaction that day was to explain my motives, to clear up my daughter’s misunderstanding, to let her know she was being ultra sensitive, and to take offense that she would even think I was being critical. But in my quiet time with God the next morning, He convicted my heart with what was lying just below its surface.
In 1 John 4:16-17, I read:
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.”
I found myself writing in the margin of my Bible: “There is no critical nature in God. I cannot be in Him and express a critical nature toward others.”
Suddenly God brought to my mind the many times I’ve had a critical thought — of what someone was wearing (shouldn’t she be more modest?) of what someone was saying (can she be any more ignorant?), and even making conclusions about one’s motives (does she have to be the center of attention?). Yet, God’s love is not perfected in me when I’m looking for something wrong and drawing conclusions (whether verbally or in my mind). God’s love is perfected in me when my first inclination is to respond in love.
Oh, how my heart was convicted by this. It is not my first nature to think loving thoughts. It is in my base, ungodly, unsurrendered-to-the-Lord life that my mind immediately judges and critical words creep out under my breath.
“What a wretched [woman] I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, TNIV). I’m so glad the Apostle Paul didn’t end his despairing thought there. He followed it up in verse 25 with the answer, the glorious truth, the godly deliverance that I need to tame my natural critical spirit into a supernatural God-like loving spirit: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
My prayer through 2019 and beyond is that God will have complete control of my mind, soul and spirit so that the first thought that comes to my mind under any circumstance and in any conversation is a thought of godly, unworldly LOVE toward others. I want whatever comes out of my mouth to be full of compassion, not complaint or “correction.” I want that description in 1 John 4:17 of first century believers to be said of me: “In this world she is like Jesus.”
Will you join me on this quest to tame our natural critical spirit into a loving, more compassionate demeanor?
For more on how you can be less of a critical mom in the eyes of your daughter, see my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter. For more on how to tame the critical nature whether you’re a mom or not, see my book, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You.