Changing the Critical Spirit

It’s a new year! Time for fresh starts, amping up goals, and taking a good look at the last year to see where you can improve. Personally, I’ve found a lot of places where I see just how badly I failed at meeting my own goals (i.e. not making enough time for writing, over-booking myself while simultaneously not participating enough, ect), but I’m also very pleased with several habits I’ve developed to improve my health, my productivity, and my relationships with others. It was a good year. Now it’s on to the next!

So What’s the top item on my list of things to improve? My critical spirit.

I say this knowing full well that it’s hard to critique movies and shows without being a wee bit judgmental. And yes, I absolutely understand the need to be critical in order to progress in one’s own efforts. A singer cannot create a better tone if they think they already have perfect technique. An athlete cannot run faster, jump higher, or go longer if they think they are already “doing enough.” A writer cannot improve their work if they already think they are fan-freaking-tastic. Similarly there is merit in learning from the mistakes of others in hopes that we do repeat them ourselves. Yadda yadda yadda, and disclaimer footnote ends here.

But does that mean we’re supposed to go looking for the shortcomings? Or that the thing we hated the most about anything is the thing that we should be focusing on? “The new Star Wars movie was fantastic, but why him!?” “The game was great and all, but that defensive line up shouldn’t even get paid this season.” “I know that writer is selling millions of books, but her style is atrocious! Seriously. Read a book for once in your life, then write.” I catch myself in the middle of these conversations all the time, spouting off harsh judgements on something that a lot of people poured a lot of love, sweat, and tears into. Why not appreciate what is rather than what we wish for?

In Philippians 4, Paul states that “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” With my badly culturally-influenced mindset, I shirk at such a claim. Any state? Any of them. Even Texas?!

It’s a hard lesson. I’m slowly learning this, trying to change my ways, and distancing myself from critical influences, but it is crazy hard to pull away from situations and conversations where harsh sentiments become standard fare. So long, internet. It was nice knowing you. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Where should my focus be?

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  – Philippians 4:8

So that’s the goal. Think on those things. Learn to appreciate the efforts if not always the product. Learn to be content even in the uncomfortable situations. Don’t participate in gripe-fests about your boss. Don’t whine about your treasured fandom. There are just too many critics in the world. I think now that I’d rather be a cheerleader.

Well, not a cheerleader. Gosh, those girls and their tiny little skirts and flirty-high ponytails. Eww, so trashy!–

… I mean…

Gee. I want to be as enthusiastic and friendly as one of them.

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