Criticism can be helpful. And, it’s OK for us to help others by pointing out ways they might improve. Jesus did, and he teaches us to. But, he also gave his golden rule to follow when criticizing – do it like we’d want it done to us. To do that, we focus first on ourselves. And, we avoid focusing only on flaws.
A busy butcher noticed in his shop a dog with an envelope in his mouth. An enclosed
note read, "I’d like 4 sausages and a leg of lamb.” There was money in the envelope, so the butcher put the meat in a bag, and placed it in the dog’s mouth.
Intrigued, he decided to close shop and follow the dog. He was amazed when the dog stopped at an intersection and pressed the crosswalk button to change the light. He was even more surprised when the dog waited at a bus stop, checking the numbers on the passing buses before eventually boarding bus 37.
Miles later, the amazing canine got off the bus and trotted to a nearby house where he threw himself against the door several times. A burly guy finally opened the door and proceeded to kick the dog and cuss him.
“What are you doing?” the butcher screamed! That dog is a genius!”
“Some genius,” the big guy huffed. “That’s the third time this week he forgot his key!”
We often focus on the flaws first. The primary reason we notice flaws, though, is because they are exceptions. If I were always rude to my wife, she would eventually barely notice (possibly because she would be gone). But, because it is so, so rare (really!) for that to happen, it gets attention. And, it should.
Bad behavior shouldn’t be ignored. But neither should the good. When God criticized the church in Ephesus, he focused first – and most – on the positives. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance,” he first tells them. “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name” (Revelation 2:2, 3).
Only after praising their strengths, does he mention their serious weakness: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (v.4).
Chances are, you have a good dog – or spouse, or kids, or friends, church, town, etc. Sure there are flaws – and those should be addressed. But praise the positives first, before you focus on any flaws.