The other night my toddler threw the Mother of All Temper Tantrums at the grocery store. I was reminded once again why I no longer judge moms of children who misbehave in public as I once did. For that matter, God has graciously helped me to let go of criticism toward others in a plethora of areas where I once thought I had a right to an opinion.
When you grow up in close proximity to highly critical people, I think you grow to believe that that’s how everyone views the world—through judgmental eyes. There’s a voice in my head all day long that berates me for things I assume others would criticize me for—my housekeeping, my children’s behavior, my weight or appearance, the way I keep my yard, what I feed my family, how often I go to the store or eat out.
The voice in my head has a little sneer… “Can you believe she’d let her kids act that way? Appalling!” “She has put on so much weight!” “I really thought she’d be a better housekeeper.” In my head, I know a lot of people could care less about these things. I have so many precious friends who not only don’t make me feel judged, but they also don’t criticize others to me. They aren’t gossips. And that makes me feel very secure in our friendship, because I know that if others can trust them to be loving and non-critical friends, I can too. And if there are people who judge me on such superficial matters, I don’t want to be friends with them anyway. My head gets that. It’s my well-trained emotions that sometimes don’t.
I know that women can be so hard on each other, and I’ll freely admit that I used to be this way too. This critical, contemptuous spirit is one of the first things God rooted out of my life as I began autonomous adulthood. Critical contempt toward others falls under the categories of sin God tells us to put away from ourselves as Christians in Colossians 3:8: “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” It’s malicious and slanderous. When I realized the destructiveness of my attitude toward others, it hurt my heart, in a good way. It brought me to repentance. I never want to do that to anyone ever again, even silently, in my mind. I was judgmental and critical for way too long. I have realized, first, that most of the things I was concerned about were foolish externals that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. And about those things that do matter–we are all in different places and what might seem like a no-brainer to me may be your greatest struggle. Your personality, your family dynamic, your health or the health of your kids, the way you were raised—all these things and others factor into decisions you make and issues you deal with. How can I pretend to understand you so thoroughly that I can judge you? I can’t. That’s God’s job.
Not only did I see how my attitude hurt my friends, I realized how a critical spirit would damage my children. Contempt is catching; I’d raise a house full of arrogant, critical little people. And criticism breeds insecurity and relationship problems as well. If I failed to let God root a critical spirit out of my life, my kids would figure out one day that my criticism would be turned on them. That wasn’t the future I wanted for my family, for me or for them.
I began to give others grace when I fully embraced God’s grace toward me. No matter how I might appear to others, He knows my shortcomings, weaknesses, sins. And because I have accepted the sacrifice of His Son and the redemption that affords, He offers me unconditional love and complete forgiveness anyway. He loves me through my struggles. He doesn’t turn His back on me. He’s patient with me when I feel as if I’m losing my grasp. There may be a few people who harshly judge me for things that are of little importance, but God never does. Even when I sin, He’s waiting with open arms to welcome me home. My prayer is that I never lose sight of his crazy love and grace toward me, so that I can continue to extend it to others. Love to each of you, sweet friends. Let’s walk in grace together!