I've heard it said that confession is good for the soul. Well, I have a confession to make. I struggle with being critical. There...the truth is out. Typically I'm critical of those I know and love the most. I see their weaknesses, zeroing in on them like a bird hunting its prey. I tend to gloss over all of the marvelous qualities that person possesses, and concentrate on the one or two areas where I'm convinced he or she is just totally missing the boat. Then it becomes my mission to subtly, or sometimes not so subtly, help the person to see how important it is to change his or her behavior in that area. Ugh!
Can anyone relate? I found myself on just such a 'mission' recently. I was beside myself. Over the past several days I've gently encouraged my daughter, Riley, to look for a summer job. I've explained the difficulty of finding a job in today's economic climate, recommended possible places of employment, and reminded her to make follow-up phone calls. As the days have turned into weeks, I have to admit that the gentle encouragement has become more of a hard shove.
My thought process. She says she wants a job, but she's not trying very hard to find one. If it were me, I would be filling out applications and making phone calls to tell the manager why they should hire me. I wouldn't be picky. Once I landed a job, if it wasn't ideal, I could work and continue looking. After all, it's always easier to find a job when you've got one. But wait a minute. My daughter isn't me.
Take a step back. Let me look at the big picture. Riley's a senior in high school with five weeks until graduation. She just returned from the national competition at Bob Jones University after placing first at the state level in Bible teaching for children. She's in the middle of completing academic testing, applying for college, and putting together her invitations for her graduation party. Not to mention keeping up with school, teaching piano lessons, and helping out with the primary children's program at our church.
Perspective is good! Although getting a summer job is important, it's unrealistic for me to expect my daughter to spend every waking moment searching for one. This weekend, I was reminded that there are other things that are equally important.
When it comes to photography, Riley is very talented. Not only can she take a great picture, but she also knows how to edit and enhance the photos in Photoshop. A few of her school friends had asked her to take their senior pictures, an opportunity that she jumped on. From Friday to late Saturday night, Riley not only took more than 700 pictures of one of her classmates, but she also edited and posted the top 75 pictures for her friend to view. Talk about sticking with a project! By Sunday, instead of relaxing after church, she made the decision to support another girlfriend by attending the funeral of her grandfather.
Character and compassion. Two very important qualities that I had foolishly glossed over in my 'mission' to refocus Riley's attention. While getting a job is important, in light of eternity, cultivating a heart of compassion is more important. After all, what is the greatest commandment? "And Jesus answered him, The first of the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31, KJV).
Do you struggle with a critical spirit? Take a step back from the situation and choose Christ's perspective, "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). It's up to you. You can become bitter with criticism, or better with compassion.
Prayer: Loving Heavenly Father, Please forgive me for having a critical spirit. Help me to have the proper perspective of my circumstances. Allow me to cultivate a spirit of compassion to love You and others as I ought. In Jesus' name, Amen.