A note to the critical self

A note to the critical self January 23, 2024

We live in a cynical world.

Just look at the level of snark, distrust and complaint at every level. The political stage is ugly, but it doesn’t stop there. The online world is full of anonymous typists who spill destructive words by the millions. I’ve received a few myself.

Civility is a lost quality, as people push in front of others in lines, zip from lane to lane on freeways, and freely curse complete strangers.

I have worked with a self-appointed critic, a hopeless cynic who sees no good in anything. To him, every policy was a plot. Every direction was misguided, and every conversation was double-sided. He thinks he’s a realist. Everyone else thinks he’s a drag. What a miserable life.

I got an e-mail from a professional church critic, who blasted my church for its insistence on evangelism from the pulpit. “Welcome to temple worship in America,” he writes, “where leaders love presiding over anything to bring people into their temples and love basking in the glory of conversions.”

My pastor pours his heart over the church and in humility, does what he can to lead this difficult flock of sheep. He’s not a perfect shepherd. But I’m a terrible lamb.

I have a relative who is part of a hate-church cult, where they point out excesses in the body without ever having to actually be part of one. From a satellite’s view, it always shows a distorted, fuzzy image. But get close, and in many places, on any given Sunday (or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc.), lives are being changed.

I admit, there’s plenty of misplaced passion in modern Christianity. But I can’t focus all my energy on what’s wrong, because I might just miss what’s right. I can’t answer for every televangelist or every person in the pew who is there for show, or every church leader with selfish motives. All I can do is be obedient to the world I’m in, follow Christ the best I know, and leave the others to answer to God.

Creative Commons via Unsplash, by Velizar Ivanov

It starts with me

I could pick out a dozen things to focus on for improvement at home, work, or church. If you look, it’s pretty easy to find incompetence at every level. There is greed, sin, and misplaced priorities everywhere. With folded arms, I could be that guy. 

I have my own cynicism to root out. I too easily lob complaints against political groups, causes, and individuals. I don’t think the federal government is good for much. I don’t understand middle-aged men who ride Harleys.

But every day, I’m trying to find 10 gifts from God, counting my blessings one by one. I’m beating back the dogs that try to drag me into the pile of smelly garbage for a good roll. I’m chasing out the cynicism under my own roof with a broom of hope before it has time to breed. I’m finding others who see life as a blessing and shouldering up to them, hoping some of it rubs off.

This critic’s choice is … joy.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

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