THE EFFECTS OF CRITICISM AND GOSSIP ON RELATIONSHIPS
May 1, 1986 Issue
by Gary Barrett
Sometimes in the Church we find ourselves manifesting certain attitudes that will separate us from our brethren. We are told in the Bible to, "love one another", but of course this is not easy. Before we can have good Christian relationships we need to recognize those things that build walls between us. I want to notice only two but I'm sure these stand out foremost in everyone's mind. I have been told there are two kinds of criticism; constructive and destructive criticism. This type of critique is for the purpose of benefiting the one being criticized. I think there is one important thing that will determine how the criticism is taken. When a person is criticized they must determine if the person doing the criticizing wants to help or hurt. It is easy to criticize someone you don't like much and not be concerned about the outcome. I believe I have been criticized both ways, offended by some, helped by others.
What is that key ingredient that makes criticism work to the benefiting of the one being criticized? I will give you a personal experience. When I first started preaching I guess I was like many young preachers, zealous, ambitious, wanting the Church to be perfect, and doing what I thought was right. My heart was then and is now in that which is best for the Church, but these traits of mine were misread by some. An old Preacher got a hold of me and said, "Gary you come over to people as being arrogant, dogmatic and belligerent". If someone said that to you how would you take it? I told the old Preacher, "I don't want to be that way and I didn't realize I was leaving that impression". What he said has done me a world of good. His criticism was constructive because I knew he loved me as a brother in Christ and wanted to help me, not hurt or get even with me. If I would have felt he was just trying to hurt me it would have certainly done damage to our relationship. Love was that key ingredient.
There are other reasons why people criticize one another so I want to notice some of them. A chronic faultfinder criticizes because they have a poor self image. Such a one feels that by making others look bad they themselves look better. Running others down makes them feel important. This of course is a bad case of self deception. Others may criticize because they are self righteous. They may feel since they have been Church members longer than some others that gives them the right to critique. Another reason people criticize is because they are jealous or just holding a grudge. This is their way of getting even and satisfying their resentment and jealousy. Another class of people who critique are those who do it by habit. They have complained and griped for so long it becomes a habit. We need to remember that criticism is a two way street.
Now remember the next time you want to criticize someone that your hearer may determine that you have an inferiority complex, or may be suffering from a lack of self esteem, or that you are self righteous, or you are jealous of the person you are criticizing or feeding a grudge or possibly just a chronic fault finder. When we criticize others behind their backs we may be telling others a little bit about ourselves and our Christianity.
Gossip also builds walls between God's people. Many times gossip and criticizing go hand in hand and it can even be hard to tell them apart. In Leviticus 19:16 God says, "thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people". Adam Clark comments on this passage "the person who travels about dealing in scandal and calumny getting the secrets of every person and family and retailing them wherever he goes. A more despicable character exists not: such a person is a pest to society, and should be exiled from the habitation of men". Why do people gossip? Many of the reasons are similar to the reasons that cause folks to criticize. 1 Tim 5:13 withal they learn to be idle wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but tattlers also and busy bodies, speaking things which they ought not. Here Paul was talking about women but I'll guarantee you they're not the only ones that suffer from that problem. Preachers can be guilty of gossip and are in a good position to carry tales all over the country. Brethren sometimes appear to have nothing better to do than run someone down or just carry tales. People gossip because that is the condition of their hearts. LK 6:45 A good man out of a good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. People also gossip because they wish to hurt or damage another person. Ps 109:2, 3 For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are open against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed me about also with words of hatred". David says, "some lied on him and others hated him. Before we take sides with someone against another let's make sure we are standing on the side of the right. If someone tells us a story about another before we believe it CHECK IT OUT to make sure it is the truth.
Gossip can cause the break up of friendships. Prov 16:28 A froward man soweth strife and a whisperer separateth chief friends". A Preacher who preaches for the Baptist Church in Modesto, Ca. said, "When he took over the Church there the people were fussing and criticizing each other. He said it seemed an element in the Church kept things stirred up all the time. He said those causing trouble finally left the Church and went to another. He went on to say the situation was greatly improved in no time at all". God must have felt the same way for he said in Prov 26:20 "Where no wood is there the fire goeth out: so where there is no tale-bearer, the strife ceaseth".
It is sad but true, if someone is going to keep trouble brewing the Church is better off without them. James 1:26 says, if a man brideleth not his tongue his religion is vain. Now some things to ponder. When I found out someone gossiped about me how did I feel? If it didn't feel good I shouldn't do it to someone else. Question: when does the information I'm passing on even if true become gossip? Answer: when I pass on information to hurt someone or to tear them down in order to build myself up in the eyes of others. Question: how often do I say things about others I would not want them to know I said? When I hear things said about another should I check them out for accuracy? What would be the surest way of finding out the truth? This article is written for your consideration that we might be better servants of the Lord and prevent walls being built that separate us.
Aids: Building Christian Relationships by Neta Jackson, Adam Clark, and Rosemary McKnight.
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