A friend who attends the same church I do just told me how several people were complaining that the very gifted pianist played too hard on the keyboard. Really? In my view, he makes the most beautiful music, especially holiday music and yes, he emphasizes a lot of the notes but he is pouring his heart out into everything he plays. I not only love the music, I love how he expresses his passion for it.
This got me to thinking about how often people seem determined to be critics of others, which for me goes against what the holiday season is all about. Whatever happened to “peace on earth, goodwill toward men?”
Being critical of others seems to come from some self-righteous place inside some people who often express their opinions as if they’re facts. It may sound like:
- “True Christians do not put up any decorations.”
- “All these extravagant Christmas lights and even shows where people compete! That is just disgusting!”
- “I do not like anyone pushing their faith on me!
- Christmas should be about gifts and Santa Claus. We shouldn’t confuse our children who love the idea of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer!”
I enjoy being an observer of the people around me, noticing the kinds of things they say and do, and wondering what their motivation might be. Of course, I’m only guessing and would be hypocritical if I said I knew exactly why. At the same time, I also notice how those around them might be reacting to whatever is being said or done. They may react with defensiveness, feeling blamed or shamed, accused, and maybe even guilty.
I wonder if I’m being critical of people who are being critical. That takes it to a whole other level. I want to be self-aware and live out my personal value in believing in the importance of respecting others. At the same time, I think of how hurt people can be when they’re criticized in some kind of judgmental way.
I also wonder if people who are so critical of others are deep down unhappy with themselves and deflect some of that personal unhappiness in their criticisms of others.
At this time of year, when we’re invited to celebrate whatever the holidays mean to us, I want to be sure I monitor my own critical thoughts and remind myself that’s not who I want to be. I wonder if we live in a world these days where it has become acceptable to name call and attack what others are saying or doing or maybe even who they are. I value the messages of the season that focus on the gift of love.
I wish you a holiday season of joy and peace. I hope you have many opportunities to give and receive love in whatever ways are meaningful to you. And I wish you a holiday free of blaming, shaming, or criticizing.
Invitation for Reflection
- As you observe the world around you, have you noticed how often there seem to be messages of criticism for the behaviors of others? How do you think it makes those on the receiving end of that criticism feel?
- Have you been on the receiving end of criticism? If so, how did you react? Did you feel blamed, shamed, hurt or even angry?
- To what extent do you notice your own tendency to be critical of others? If so, what do you think your underlying motivation for this is? Is it something you would consider changing now that you are more aware?
- How would the world be if we eliminated or at least reduced the amount of unfair, unhealthy criticisms transmitted by words, behaviors and even dirty looks?