Friday, May 30, 2014

Admonition vs. Criticism

And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. Romans 15:14

No one likes to be criticized.  That fact has no objections I am sure.  However, everyone needs to be counseled and, at times, admonished.  There really is quite a difference.

Paul presents the perfect example of how to approach someone when you need to caution them about something or question their choices or behavior.  His example is something every parent, friend and especially Christian should follow.

Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People speaks of the emotional bank account.  He recognizes that we make both deposits and withdrawals in the lives of others emotionally.  His caution is that we be careful to have a positive balance before we make a withdrawal or a statement of concern can register as a condemnatory criticism.

We are not prone to receive a negative comment from someone who does not have a good relationship with us or has not spent the time with us to know us.  Their opinions may be valid but their right to speak them to us has not been earned.  On the other hand, we will listen with attention to the ones who we know have an interest in our success and happiness.

Look at what Paul said to open the door for his words of counsel.  The first thing we notice is the way he addressed them. He said, “my brethren.”  This is an endearing term of relationship.  It speaks of being in a family and connected.  This is not someone from the outside sharing their observations but someone from the inside affected by another’s life.

Next, he addresses their character by saying, “I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness.  People who condemn and criticize often use words about a person’s character instead of their actions.  It is one thing to question what I did, it is another to question who I am.  We all can learn from this.  There is a natural inclination to address someone’s motive instead of their action when we have no real idea as to why they may have done what they did.  “You are sorry!” is a defamation of character, not a loving admonition.

Then, Paul says that he sees them as intelligent when he says, “filled with all knowledge.” Few words can hurt more than the words, “You are stupid.”  We don’t say it like that though.  We couch it in other terms such as, “Any three-year-old knows better.”  However you say it, it is demeaning and condemning.  But Paul commends them on being able to listen with their mind instead of their emotions.  Too many have trouble with this.  The minute someone says something negative they feel they don’t like them.  They become defensive and listen emotionally.

The unity of a fellowship or a family is enhanced when honest discussion and loving concern can be given with respect and dignity.  Here is a good example for all of us to follow.  When someone we love is walking toward a bad end, we need to be responsible enough to stand in their way to warn.  Just use the right method for your good action.

Scripture to Claim

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Devotional Archive