To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common–this is my symphony.~William Henry Channing

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why I Should Be Critical

It's been so quiet here on the blog lately, hasn't it? Not for lack of words or ideas and stories; I have those in abundance swirling around in my brain. So much so that I am having a hard time keeping them from running into each other and becoming an incoherent mess. As I typed that out it dawned on me that what I need to do is write it down and sort it out. But, like most of us, I find it easier to let it all rattle around in my head without actually committing to one train of thought and following it through to a conclusion. I have greater success in creating my reality, whether correct or not, when I keep all my thoughts jumbled and incomplete.

But that really isn't helpful, is it? Or profitable. I'm reminded of the prayer found in Psalm 19:14 ~ "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight..." It sounds good to say that I am spending a lot of time thinking about gracious living and what that looks like but if I am not willing to really sort out what that means, and sincerely look at my life through the lens of true Truth and not just my own rambling thoughts, then my words and thoughts probably aren't very acceptable to anyone, much less a holy and just and gracious God who calls me to live a holy and just and gracious life.

I think what I need to cultivate is a critical eye. We shy a way from that word as if  "critical" has become the new "judgmental" and the whole taken-completely-out-of-context "judge not lest you be judged" is applied the same way. The word critical has fallen on hard times in our society but it's helpful, I think, if we push it into the I-do-not-think-that-word-means-what-you-think-it-means spot light.

The definition that we're most familiar is, of course, negative - one of disapproval and judgement. That's not the critical I am speaking of. Unfortunately this is the critical that comes most naturally to us. Our bent, because of sin, is toward the six foot log in my own eye but all I see is the teensy weensy splinter in your eye kind of critical.

But there is another way of interacting with being critical; a way that is healthy and profitable. It's being able to assess the good and bad of something. When I do a family's pictures I practice this kind of critical when I go through their images later and determine which ones I will give them.

It falls more under the realm of critical thinking and our culture is not real big on that. We leave that to the egg heads, the more studious and analytical types. The average person focuses more on how they feel about something rather than any kind of critical (thinking) evaluation of circumstances or things.

Is there a way to be critical that is bad? Of course there is. We are a magical people with a boundless capacity for turning something good into something bad, and equally good at hypnotizing ourselves into believing that it's all good and not bad at all.

One critical is looking for perfection to it's own standard and pounces with a mighty "Aha!" when it sees perceived sin. The name of the game is control and getting things they way we like it.

The other critical is careful judgment; for the purpose of refinement or, if there is sin involved, for the purpose of restoration. Because sometimes it's not sin. Sometimes it is just immaturity and a rightly critical eye will learn to look for and know the difference.

As a parent I want to turn this kind of critical eye on my children. One way that this looks in my life is our Sunday afternoon lunch at church
each week. When we're getting ready to eat, are my girls looking to help with the younger kids as they go through the line? Are my children always first in line? Is Claire taking only the food and amount of said food that she can and will eat? Are they helping in the clean up afterwards?

I want to assess these things not so I can tell my children they are being selfish and rude, but so I can steer them into the better way of being part of the community. I want them to be thoughtful participants within our church family.

I need to  turn that critical eye on myself as well. Am I being a thoughtful and kind member of our church family? What about within my home? One of the biggest ways that I can do this is by being charitable in my thoughts of others. Am I willing to assume the best behind the actions of others? Or am I immediately taking offense at something said or done?

Being rightly critical is a skill long neglected but surely needed in our world. It is a powerful tool that used correctly can strengthen and encourage the body of Christ.

2 comments:

I appreciate any thoughts you'd like to share...it makes our visits so much more enjoyable!