Lent begins next Wednesday, March 1st. What will you give up? Will it be chocolate, Facebook, or for the courageous, coffee, as I did for a few years. If you aren’t sure what to give up for the season of Lent, let me make a suggestion for you. Give up criticism.
A few weeks ago a friend of the church handed me a devotional from Guideposts written by Jan Weeks. Jan told of a challenge made by her pastor. In a sermon, Pastor Patty wondered to her people, “Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where no one complained or criticized or gossiped?” That sounds like a better world to me.
In worship that particular Sunday the church ushers passed around baskets filled with purple rubber-band bracelets. Pastor Patty invited the congregation to wear a band and to switch it to the other wrist anytime the bracelet-wearer said something negative. The goal was to make it 21 days with the bracelet on the same wrist; for it takes about three weeks to form a habit, like the habit of not complaining or criticizing.
I was reminded of something that the late Catherine Marshall wrote years ago. She too was convicted by the Holy Spirit to work on her negative attitude. She wrote, “The Lord continues to deal with me about my critical spirit, convicting me that I have been wrong to judge any person or situation. One morning He [meaning the Lord God Almighty] gave me an assignment: for one day I was to go on a ‘fast’ from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody or anything.”
Catherine wasn’t crazy about this little assignment from the Lord. She was certain that the world in general and her family members in particular would miss the insights of her judgments. God told her to put a sock in it: Just obey Me without questioning; an absolute fast on any critical statements for this day.
Certain that she would die or the world would end, Catherine entered her fast from criticism on shaky legs. She discovered that no one in her family missed her criticism and the world continuing turning nicely. It wasn’t until later in the day that Catherine discovered what God had in store for her. “Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. . . My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stifle my own creativity—in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing—ideas that He [meaning the Lord God Almighty] wanted to give me.”
That night Catherine attended her weekly Bible study and shared her fast with her friends. She was amazed by their response as many admitted that a critical spirit was the number one problem in their offices, marriages, churches and with their teenaged children.
We have a purple band for you if you can make it to worship this Sunday. Wear it and while it’s one your wrist, ask God for His help in conquering criticism. The world, your family, our church will be better for it.