1 John 3:18-20 “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.” (The Message version)
I remember when I was seven I drew a sunflower in art class and went around complaining about how ugly it was (though I clearly believed the opposite) and got everyone to reassure me that it was much nicer than theirs so that I would in turn do the same for them. But I was seven and I don’t think things like that happen in school anymore haha.
Unfortunately that seed of “self-criticism” is still there, just manifested in subtler ways. In inverted commas because most of the time when we are self-deprecatory it’s not really because we loathe ourselves; quite the contrary. For instance in the seven-year-old scenario, self-criticism was just an approval-seeking tactic. And you know how people (including me) always say things like “I know this is really (negative adjective) but…” or “Yes I’m being (negative adjective) but…” before proceeding to express whatever negative thing they want to express? It strikes me as strange, because it’s as if a knowledge or an awareness of a person’s negativity excuses a proportion of it. In other words, underlying such a habit seems to be the subconscious thinking that displaying self-awareness (or self-condemnation) about one’s own whiny-ness/judgmental-ness/etc. makes it less of a bad thing. Not more positive, but less intolerable at any rate. When in fact it should be the other way around: if anything should be legitimately capable of excusing a negative attitude or mindset, it should be ignorance of it and not acute awareness!
Oh well, I’m not sure why this happens. It remains a mystery o:! But the problem can get serious when we carry this misconception into our relationship with Christ; He is a holy God and is not going to excuse us from judgment or condemnation because we purportedly condemn ourselves or criticize ourselves extensively. I’m not really referring to desparate feelings of guilt here, more of having a lot of empty words and lip-service. And self-criticism is worthless in the context of being a Christian so long as nothing is done about it.
I don’t know whether this is just me, but I tend to go on and on in harsh self-directed rambles about how unholy my thought-life or my words or actions have been, only to stop there. Words without action. There is nothing holy or pleasing to God about self-criticism without repentance or rededication, because it’s essentially still all about self! It’s sitting in front of a gourmet meal and complaining about being starved to death. And so we have got to open our eyes and take action because guess what? God already did, 2000 years ago 🙂