Pride and Criticism


It seems to me that criticism can be an outgrowth of pride. Strange, I suspect, coming from one who, in part, earned a living, as a teacher and coach, evaluating students’ work or performance. And who now regularly critiques the writing of others, either as a paid editor or as an occasional book blogger.

Writing book reviews and editing, teaching and coaching, may not seem like “criticism,” but there is a shared element. In each instance, the one reviewing, editing, or evaluating is taking the position of judge, even if only for a short time and in a narrow jurisdiction. Generally the person in such positions has the right, and in many cases, the responsibility, to exercise a degree of criticism. How much would students learn if teachers refrained from instructive criticism and became mere cheerleaders in the classroom?

But there’s a danger in taking on that role of judge—the temptation to think more highly of oneself than he should.

Being in authority, even for brief moments, can be a heady experience. I’ll never forget my first day of teaching when I told my homeroom students to take out a piece of paper … and they DID. I was shocked by the fact that thirty-one twelve-year-olds were doing what I told them to. It was a little heady (until the day they decided to test me to see what would happen if they didn’t listen and obey. 🙄 )

Here’s where I’m going. In our contemporary American culture, we all act as if we have the right to criticize … anyone and anything at any time. We criticize the coach of our favorite team if they lose, or the best player on the team if he has a sub-par performance. We criticize the President and Congress, generals and governors, police officers and city council members, teachers and pastors, political parties and … the Church.

Am I saying we should shut up and dutifully toe the line when we have serious disagreements with any of these people? No. In all cases we need to be praying. In some, we have the responsibility stated in Scripture to go to individuals and confront them. Other times we need to state our points of disagreement publicly, for the sake of people who may be blind to the things we’re seeing.

But this last is tricky. How do we point the finger at others and say they need to do thus and so or refrain from this or that, without pointing the other three fingers back at ourselves? We can’t, and that fact ought to make those of us giving critiques, reviews, evaluations some pause. We ought to dole out a little honey with the sting, a little mercy with the judgment.

How much more so is this true when we’re talking about the Church! Yet there is a growing number of professing Christians who vilify the Bride of Christ, as if it is their right, even their responsibility … not to lovingly correct those in their immediate sphere of influence, but to condemn the institution as we know it, and by extension those who remain a part and a support of the institution.

As if only those who separate from the traditional church know what it means to be spiritual. Everyone still a part is too wrapped up in programs and lists of thou-shalt-nots and (horrors!) doctrine.

Here are some of the things I see regarding this current movement among professing Christians to disdain the Church:

Anyone rightfully giving criticism does so with construction in mind, not destruction. Can someone who has left the Church rightfully be said to have constructive goals?

Criticism sometimes puts the spotlight on the critic, in which case the goal seems self-centered, not redemptive or even corrective.

Disdaining the Church as a whole implies more knowledge and spiritual insight than all pastors, seminary teachers, Bible scholars, and lay leaders throughout the world.

I wonder. Is it too far fetched to think pride may be playing a part in this current movement against the Church from the ranks of professing Christians?

Published in: on October 28, 2009 at 5:32 pm  Comments (3)  
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