Is criticism some kind of an enemy that needs to be conquered? Certainly constructive criticism, impelled by a spirit of love, can be valuable, even vital in some cases. But destructive criticism can spoil family harmony, undermine confidence, create despair. It shuts out gratitude. It robs praise and kills joy. Such faultfinding is not conducive to healing. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, ``I admonish Christian Scientists either to speak charitably of all mankind or to keep silent, for love fulfils divine law and without this proof of love mental practice were profitless.'' 1
To love in the most profound sense is to discern the true selfhood of man as God has created him. This spiritual, perfect man reflects the nature of his Father, the nature of divine Love, and so is loving and loved. He cannot practice or provoke criticism. This reality of man is what Christ Jesus discerned and what enabled him to heal. It's the reality that we increasingly need to perceive if we are to conquer the criticism that undermines and destroys.
This doesn't mean we're naively to overlook wrongdoing. But it does mean that genuine healing can only come through a realization of how God has actually made man.
The Master declared, ``God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.'' 2 If criticism is truly constructive, its purpose is to save the individual from mistakes or wrongdoing. Kindly correction, wrapped in love, helps rather than hurts. As followers of Christ, we have a constructive mission to heal.
Mrs. Eddy once told a group of Christian Scientists, ``You may condemn evil in the abstract without harming any one or your own moral sense, but condemn persons seldom, if ever.'' 3 Impersonalizing criticism is seldom easy. But the law of healing and reformation requires that it be done. The conversion to Christianity of the Apostle Paul, after his persecution of its proponents, clearly indicates that we can never rule out the possibility of reformation. Personal criticism pins the problem to the individual. Impersonal rejection of wrongdoing as illegitimate, and no part of man's identity as God's likeness, frees the individual to come to himself,4 as the prodigal did in Jesus' parable.
An examination of one's own thinking can sometimes reveal an almost habitual tendency to criticize rather than to appreciate. Criticism of the weather, the traffic, and so on, can readily lead to habitual criticism of others. Through conscious effort and disciplined thinking--and above all, a recognition of what man really is--we can cultivate the habit of appreciation, and so contribute to a climate of harmony.
We can choose to throw bouquets of gratitude instead of stones of criticism, and so benefit others. This doesn't preclude the responsibility, at appropriate times, for pointing out another's faults with a spirit of love and a healing purpose. But it does point to a need to be watchful of our concept of others and of our motives.
Conquering criticism is an ongoing campaign, but as Mrs. Eddy points out, ``Be of good cheer; the warfare with one's self is grand; it gives one plenty of employment, and the divine Principle worketh with you,--and obedience crowns persistent effort with everlasting victory.'' 5 What a wonderful contribution we all make toward world peace when we take upon ourselves the grand warfare of conquering destructive criticism! 1 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 106. 2 John 3:17. 3 Miscellany, p. 249. 4 See Luke 15:17. 5 Miscellaneous Writings, p. 118.