IT'S important to distinguish between constructive and destructive criticism. To analyze qualities and evaluate their comparative worth can be constructive; it can be helpful in making wise and accurate judgments. We might find ourselves engaging in such criticism when we're discussing a movie or a work of art with a friend. But there is another form of criticism that's more personal and often more subtle. This is the condemning kind of criticism, the chronic faultfinding that is usually directed at another person. There have probably been occasions when we've been either the source or the target of this kind of criticism. It's fairly easy to recognize. It usually has its source in feelings of superiority, self-righteousness, or self-justification and most always results in hurt feelings, strained relationships, alienation, or guilt.
Is there a way to escape from this destructive pattern of criticism, or is it just an ingrained human trait that we have to put up with? The answer really lies in how we identify ourselves and others. If we identify man as a flawed mortal with a limited mind composed of good and evil traits, we might certainly find something to criticize. But if we can progressively see ourselves and others as God's man, made in His image and likeness, reflecting the purity and goodness of the one Mind, we find that there is nothing worthy of criticism.
This may sound like a tall order. It may also seem like a naive disregard of human failings. But it's not an ignoring of evil -- far from it. Our efforts to discern the true selfhood of man help to expose and destroy what is unlike the divine nature.
In the Bible we learn that the two great commandments are to love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves. Our task, then, is to discern and love consistently the man of God's creating, the true spiritual individuality of us all. To do this we have to recognize that there is really only one Mind -- God. This Mind created man in its own image to reflect its harmony, perfection, and love. What the Bible terms the ``carnal mind,'' with its envy, dishonesty, hatred, sensuality, and so on is not genuine Mind but falsity, because there isn't more than one Mind, or God. This carnal, mortal mind, which identifies man as sinful and destructible, is ``enmity against God''1 and must be put off. As James so aptly put it, ``A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.''2 The self-will, self-righteousness, and so forth that characterize carnal thinking can be put off as we increasingly cultivate and put into practice such God-derived qualities as unselfed love, thoughtfulness, patience, and forgiveness. This becomes easier and more natural for us as we put our love for God and man first in our affections. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``He who refuses to be influenced by any but the divine Mind, commits his way to God, and rises superior to suggestions from an evil source.''3
Recognizing the affluence and ever-presence of the one Mind, of all-embracing divine Love, enlarges our perception of man's innate completeness and perfection and helps lift us above the tendency to find fault in a detrimental sense. As we yield to divine Love's control of our thoughts and actions, we progressively respond with love rather than react with destructive criticism. We discover we are no longer satisfied with outgrown, limited concepts of ourselves or our fellow beings, just as we wouldn't be fooled by a counterfeit if we were intimately familiar with the original. As Mrs. Eddy writes, ``Love never loses sight of loveliness.''4
Seeing ourselves and others in the light of Love doesn't condone or ignore evil but exposes it as an imposition on our thought that we can see right through. Our love for God and for man in His likeness will outweigh any temptation to criticize self-righteously. Try it. You'll love what you see!
1Romans 8:7. 2James 1:8. 3Miscellaneous Writings, p. 113. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 248.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. 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 forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any. Colossians 3:12,13