Healing the critical heart
HAVEN'T we all felt the weight of a critical heart at one time or another? Such a heart sees fault in every direction. Try as it may, it just can't help putting what it sees into words. ``The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!'' 1 At the root of it, isn't a heart filled with criticism more disappointed in itself than in others? Perhaps it feels unworthy and lacking, and tries to project these troubles onto others. So, maybe the task is to expel the criticism by filling our hearts with meekness and self-respect.
This happens naturally when we glimpse the spiritual truth of creation--that God created man in love and perfection, not in condemnation. God's goodness and perfection are easy for most to accept. Isn't it logical, then, that God's goodness is reflected in His highest, most cherished work--the man of His creating.
This concept of man's actual selfhood as forever good and never worthy of condemnation is fundamental to the teachings of Christian Science, discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy. In one place she writes: ``The origin, substance, and life of man are one, and that one is God,--Life, Truth, Love . . . . Did the substance of God, Spirit, become a clod, in order to create a sick, sinning, dying man?'' Later she continues, ``Man is as perfect now, and henceforth, and forever, as when the stars first sang together, and creation joined in the grand chorus of harmonious being.'' 2
What better basis could we have for a rejuvenated, uncritical feeling about our own capabilities and worth? Daily prayer, based on this understanding, can help us more clearly see the source of the good qualities we express in our work, at home, in school. And it can help us see that all individuals have that same source, which, of course, is God.
Through prayer, too, more of the good things we want to do we'll be impelled to do, and more of what we genuinely want to be will appear in us. A moment of gratitude for God's love, for example, can help us see that because we kept our temper in check that morning, we can be in control the entire day. A heart occupied with gratitude finds it natural to sup- port the activities of others rather than criticize.
This does not mean, however, that there won't be times when constructive criticism is appropriate and, in fact, helpful to our own or another's progress. We can't simply ignore evil, because that won't help anyone. The need is to silence habitual criticism through a growing understanding of man's real nature as God's likeness.
It's true that tight-lipped determination might clip some criticism, but let's remember it's the heart that needs renewal. Perhaps what we need most is summarized in these words of St. Paul: ``If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'' 3
What a grand promise--a new creature in Christ. Perhaps those around us will do some of the same things, rightly or wrongly, that once drew our fire. But we will perceive things differently because of our spiritual orientation, our higher sense of God and man.
So, hail the entrance of a new creature! And let praise, not criticism, rule the heart.
1 James 3:5. 2 Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 187, 188. 3 II Corinthians 5:17. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forigiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. Colossians 3:12, 13