Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. –Philippians 2:14-16a
“It’s in our nature to critique, isn’t it?” came the gentle and honest reproach from a good friend during a conversation at a wedding reception. The statement stopped me mid-sentence. The conversation seemed benign enough as we discussed how the serving line could have moved a little more smoothly if it were placed in a different location. Merely an observation, I thought; however, the gentle reprimand caught my attention.
In the quest for excellence, we have learned to identify the area of greatest weakness and improve it. This is true in the workplace, academics, the sporting arena, the fine arts and even in the church. Excellence is our goal and many of us strive diligently to reach it. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with striving for excellence, but in this quest, we often confuse critique with criticism. Webster makes this differentiation: to critique someone or something is to offer a critical analysis or overview. It looks at the whole picture, encompassing strengths, weaknesses, purpose and other effectiveness. Criticism, on the other hand, is the act of making a judgment, or to find fault.
Paul, when writing to the church at Philippi, urged his readers to do everything without complaining or arguing. Was he seeking to keep the peace so that everyone will get along? No! His purpose was much higher. Check out his reasoning, “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”
It’s a bit touchy. We are to stop complaining so that we can become blameless and pure. Wow! That’s a great concept! We can choose to be critical–complaining and looking just like the crooked and depraved generation in which we live–or we can choose to stop arguing or complaining and shine like the stars in the universe and hold out the word of life. The choice seems simple, but it’s certainly not easy. It takes a lot of self-discipline and self-evaluation to keep critiquing from becoming complaining, but it can be done! Today, make it your goal to stay away from complaining!
As you consider your words, which are you more apt to do: Offer helpful critique or negative criticism? Why?