In Part 1 of Criticism in Marriage, I barely scratch the surface of criticism whether good, bad, or indifferent. Today I would like to focus on criticism that is destructive and destroying marriages and families. Learning the differences in criticism is not only important for your marriage, but it will affect your workplace, your church, and your children.
Types of Destructive Criticism
One type is the passive aggressive comment. If you’ve ever seen Everybody Loves Raymond, you are familiar with this type of criticism. We usually call it a complement wrapped around an insult. Something like, “You did great a great job for someone with no skill.” Another example is, “You would look so pretty with shorter hair.” Comments like that may not mean to hurt someone’s feelings, but they certainly do. We typically only hear the part where we failed (I have no skill and I am not pretty until we change my hair) and not the success at all. The truth is, that while these are very hurtful types of comments, in some cases they are not intentional.
Another type of destructive criticism is name calling. I probably do not need to elaborate here, but you should distinguish the difference between name calling and a poor choice of words. Telling someone, “You are a jerk!” is clearly calling them a name. Saying, “You are acting like a jerk!” is a passive aggressive way of calling someone a name. Both of these comments are bad and do not lead to anything good. I have heard people in the grocery store calling their children stupid, or saying that they are acting stupid. There is no difference to the child, they are going to think you think they are stupid.
The worst type of destructive criticism is the type that intentionally aims to destroy the other person by dismissing their opinions and their rights. An example of this is someone saying, “You need to shut up and listen to me; I’m the parent.” They may say, “You have no idea what you are doing and have no business doing that.” Or even, “You don’t deserve that promotion.” These comments are meant to tear down the target, and in some way build up the person saying them. Even telling a child, “Because I said so!” can be considered destructive criticism because you are asserting your authority over the child, while showing that they have no rights. Be careful using this statement!
Making a Change
While researching this blog post, I ran across an article that suggested that the only way to fix a critical spouse is to divorce. That is certainly not the case in most marriages. If you find that you or your spouse are making comments that are destructive, you should address the issue together. I am going to address this as if you and I are the ones who are critical rather than our spouses. I believe that we all use destructive criticism at times, therefore we all need to look to ourselves first. To change your marriage and your family, we should first start with ourselves.
First, begin by seeking God and asking Him to reveal to you anything in your past that may cause you to make these comments. Maybe your parent talked to you this way, and they still do! You could possibly be doing the same thing without even knowing it. Perhaps it was a teacher that you felt actually motivated you to better yourself by putting you down. You know, the one that says you’ll never be able to read that difficult book, go to college, run a 4 minute mile, lift 300 lbs, and so on. So in order to prove them wrong you did everything in your power to reach your goal, and now you find yourself “motivating” your spouse in the same way.
Once God shows you what part of your heart needs healing, seek counsel. Find counsel in His word, through a pastor, a mentor, a counselor, or even a life coach. Use God’s word daily to make a lasting change. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Remember that God says he will renew our spirit daily, so we must seek Him daily.
Be patient. Changing a behavior like this will take some time. If you are like me, words just fly right out of your mouth before you have a chance to stop them. For example, Jerry and I had a small spat a few weeks ago that could have turned pretty ugly. He asked me to be quiet while he listened to a TV preacher talk about listening to your wife. He said, “Shh, I’m trying to hear this part.” My flippant and quick sarcasm retorted, “Are you?!” I made sure to stop my mouth at that moment and apologize for my comment. He was trying to learn to be a better husband, and because he hurt my feelings by shushing me, I hurt him in return.
Lastly, remember to hold your tongue when you are being criticized. I’m no math genius, but I know that a negative + a negative = more negative. But if you throw enough positives at a negative, you’ll eventually end up positive again. (Right Tammy A?) Even though I have been working on this in my own life, I still find myself criticizing my husband in passive aggressive ways. Whether elbowing him when that preacher is saying something I think he should be working on, or emailing him this very article and reminding him not to criticize me, both are in fact doing to him what I don’t want done to me. (See, told you I needed this article too!) But change won’t come overnight. You truly need to work on yourself!
In Part 3, we will discuss was to criticize and to accept criticism in a positive way.
Scriptures for Meditation
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” – Proverbs 15:1-2 ESV
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29 ESV
” Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Phillipians 2:3