Critique and criticism sound very similar. They are often confused and misused. That they have the same root certainly doesn’t help. Critique and criticism, however, have different intents.
Critique is a thoughtful analysis of something with pointers provided for improvement. The pointers are intended to perfect one’s craft and are meant for self-improvement by the recipient.
Criticism is often less thoughtful and often a more emotional commentary of something. Unlike critique, the starting point is negative and is less about improving the other and more about lifting up the self.
The harsh words of the prophets were often viewed as criticism. Though there was anger and grief in the words (for God was angry and grieving), the intent was never the destruction of the Israelites or Jews. The intent was always to have them improve by throwing away their false worship and disregard of God.
The harshness came from the constant ignoring that occurred. The Israelites and Jews never seemed to be convinced by gentle and loving words. Before we criticize them, however, we need to critique ourselves.
One of the traits of humanity is the automatic assumption that critique is criticism. This is more a reflection of our own tendencies to criticize rather than critique. This is an important thing to recognize, for this also means we are often not open to improvement.
Our Christian walk is significantly impacted by this, as it means we are not open to even the Holy Spirit guiding us into all Truth, let alone feedback from our faith community. Our progressive sanctification (becoming more holy, or more like God) hinges on the surrendering of our will, and, perhaps more importantly, our ego and super-ego (to use Freud’s terms).
The human tendency is to protect our ego and super-ego. We don’t want to change. We want others to change, but not us. Any change we experience, we want to be without pain.
We all understand intellectually that this is unreasonable while we still seek to protect ourselves. In egotistical self-defense, we will assume that any critique is actually criticism and an attempt to harm us. We can look at social media, normal media, and see that exact behavior played out.
The Israelites were no different. They wanted to grab onto a dream the Jerusalem and the Promised Land were protected spaces and that they would come to no harm. They held onto this despite the surrounding threats.
By sending the prophets, he sought to help them see the error of their ways. Instead, they tell Amos to not prophesy against Israel. Habakkuk announced their egotistical ways and they opposed him.
Lord Jesus, as we read about the lives of others in the Scriptures, help us to see our own failures in a brighter light than theirs, and guide us into the righteous life with you. Amen.
1) Think of the cultural issues currently surrounding us. Are we really all that different than the Israelites?
2) If the things around are being allowed by God, how should we be viewing them?
3) Thinking of critique and criticism, how can you improve your ability to receive and deliver critique, especially concerning spiritual matters?