Do we justify ourselves? Usually. That is, if the opinion of the one who is criticizing is important to us - even slightly.
One time I was unable to attend an important meeting. I knew that a friend of mine who had always been very critical would be there, and that she would find fault when she saw I wasn't. My excuse was so good that I could hardly wait until the meeting was over to call her. ''Oh,'' she said, ''I couldn't make it. I had to work.'' I was totally deflated - my attempt at self-justification was wasted. She hadn't even known I wasn't there!
Fear of criticism is a common problem, but self-justification will never save us. Rather, it promotes a feeling of vulnerability. Fear of criticism encourages dishonesty. It would even cause the most ''normally honest'' person to sometimes lie. It is the very foundation of the temptation to succumb to peer pressure and , in some cases, to immorality.
We can begin to uproot the tendency to react when others criticize by gaining a better understanding of our actual selfhood. In the first chapter of the Bible we find the man of God's creating. Here we learn that ''God created man in his own image,'' male and female. ''And God blessed them.'' n
n1 Genesis 1:27,28. 1
Only by starting from this standpoint and correctly identifying ourselves as this blessed man of God's creating - as His spiritual image, flawless and free - can we rise above those misconceptions of creation personified by Adam and Eve in the allegory that follows.
Beginning with Genesis 2, verse 6, we find a completely contradictory record of creation. In this exposure of the roots of human error, man is represented as a sinful mortal who is disobedient and easily influenced. Here we find the ''Lord God'' creating man from dust and woman from man's rib. This allegory vividly, and most helpfully, depicts a misconception of God and man. What hope is there for any of us if we accept this misconception as the truth of creation?
Christ Jesus taught that God is a loving Father who tenderly cares for all His children. He showed by his healing work that God's will is always good. The ''Our Father''of Jesus' prayer could never be the ''Lord God'' of the Adam and Eve allegory - the God who curses His children.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, asks this thought-provoking question: ''Does divine Love commit a fraud on humanity by making man inclined to sin, and then punishing him for it? Would any one call it wise and good to create the primitive, and then punish its derivative?'' n2
n2 Science and Health with key to the Scriptures, p. 356. 2
You may be wondering what all this has to do with healing the fear of criticism. Just about everything! As we begin to recognize and accept the spiritual fact of our status as the loved offspring of divine Love, fear progressively fades from our thought and life. As the misconceptions of man as a fallen mortal, a faulty mortal, a critical mortal, or a sensitive mortal yield to our understanding that we are the blessed child of God, criticism loses its power to hurt us.
Moreover, we begin to find ourselves doubly blessed. Understanding that God never made man ''inclined to sin,'' we will not only find freedom from the hurt of unjust criticism; we will be able to correct in ourselves whatever is contrary to our true nature. And we will be more responsive to constructive criticism.
So when others criticize, let's recognize the man of God's creating, not just in ourselves but in everyone involved. If we do, we'll find there's nothing left to justify! DAILY BIBLE VERSE Lo, this only have I found that God hath made man upright. Ecclesiastes 7:29