This is why you criticize others

I’m pretty good at it. Criticizing.

I’ve trained for it my whole life.

Like Rocky Balboa trains for a fight.

Rising before the sun knows I’m up, with a beard burlier than the night before, efforts aimed at capturing a deer I’m chasing up a Russian mountainside in four feet of snow, while simultaneously processing the emotional devastation of what this all means for my wife, kids, and the sequel…and then eating said deer, raw.

There’s a lot of time for criticizing, especially if you have a poor work ethic, which I’ve had for much of my life.

Whew. I feel better saying it.

It’s true. My dad tried to get me to work hard. To clean with great detail, build manly things out of wooden materials, “fix” broken stuff.

One attempt on his part to teach me responsibility and work ethic I remember like yesterday. He pushed our vintage Snapper riding mower out of the garage and onto the blacktop.

After driving it down to the field in the rear of our house, the lesson began. Here’s how to start it. Here’s the blade engage. This pedal makes you go. (I nodded, probably overconfidently so as to compensate for my obviously not understanding.) You also want to look back every now and then to make sure the engine isn’t on fire.

I think I cried.

No, dad. I don’t want to do that. The prospect of burning to death for the sake of a neatly manicured 3/4 of an acre didn’t rouse the manual labor muse within.

I didn’t find my work stride until more recently. Part of it is the job. Part of it is the community of folks I’m around. Part of it is my wife–a huge part. If I have any parts left, another one is what I’m reading now. Not theology. It’s more practical theology–like the be doers of what you’re reading, not just hearers, part.

Steven Pressfield has written novels, screenplays, and non-fiction kicks in the rear. The latter is what I’ve been devouring the last month.

The War of Art

Turning Pro

Do the Work

These are gold mines for me. The principles therein are such that I can superimpose them on the last decade of my life and then wish Uncle Rico’s time machine really worked so I could go back and do a lot of things very differently.

At least I found them at 36 and not 46. Those of you who are 46 know what I’m saying, right?

Here I am now. Learning and growing. Growing and learning. The learning usually has to do with some deficiency deep on my withinside.

In The War of Art, I appreciated Pressfield adding this biographical portion about me –

If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived our own.

The War of Art, p. 38

Thanks, Steve. May I call you Steve?

Translation: We criticize others who are moving closer to becoming who they really are.

They’ve pushed through resistance and done the hard work of doing the work. And when I, you, we see someone do that, we can’t help but be envious. So we find something not to like.

Ah, but what (who) we really don’t like is ourselves. In that way, rather than scratching the itch to criticize, let it serve as a built-in reality check. What am I not doing that I want to be doing? What have I not accomplished? What have I given up on? What resistance am I permitting to keep me from becoming who I really am?

Who knows. Maybe you and I will be criticized one day.

Two significant lies about significance, part 2

Rembrandt-Wikipedia

Rembrandt’s “The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of Smell)”

In part 1 I addressed lie #1 that Satan speaks regarding significance — You’re not important.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that whispered in my subconscious ear, but it’s more than I care to count. Lies are always combated by truth, though. And the truth of the matter is that you (and I) are a work of God and are loved by God. That, dear friend, is your identity.

And as I said in part 1, identity precedes responsibility in God’s economy.

The second lie has to do with responsibility.

Before getting to that lie, though, follow me through this wonderful story:

In 2016, a small, slightly damaged oil painting was drug out of a basement in New Jersey. The owners figured it would fetch several hundred benjamins (those are hundred dollar bills if you can’t track with my flyness) at auction because it looked oldish and had some character. Imagine their shock when someone told them they’d had a Rembrandt tucked away in their dingy basement in Jersey all these years.

The small painting, it turns out, was part of Rembrandt’s early series on the five senses. When I say early, he was about 18 when he painted the work pictured above. After being purchased for close to $1 million, it has been on display at the Getty Museum in California.

The real tragedy of that painting being left in an unseen corner is that the work couldn’t be enjoyed by others and the artist couldn’t receive credit for his work. 

On a far greater scale, how tragic is it that you and me, masterpieces of God, could live as though stuck in a gloomy basement or stuffy attic, neglecting to reflect the glory of our Creator and failing to be awe-inspiring displays of His genius and attention to detail…

This consideration leads us to the second lie.

LIE #2: What you do isn’t important.

Hot on the heels of attacking identity, Satan’s next move is to go after responsibility. In fact, I’m convinced that one of his primary tactics is to blur the lines in our minds and get us to confuse the two, so that I become what I do. Thus, what I’m doing (or not doing) becomes who I am (or who I am not).

It’s part of the reason one of the first questions guys ask one another is ‘what do you do for a living’. As if what you do tells me what I need to know about who you are. Only if you tell me you’re a ventriloquist, then I feel like I know all I need to know.

But no matter what someone does, the whispers come…

  • It isn’t significant enough.
  • It isn’t noteworthy enough.
  • It doesn’t make enough money.
  • It won’t make a lasting enough impact.

For the last decade, I have gone all in on the lie that I have to do something grand, something large-scale, something that people would talk about and perhaps even line up to see or experience.

It’s no surprise that over that same period I never had strong sense of my identity as a son of God. I was so wrapped up in doing things for God that I had never absorbed being loved by God.

Until you feel loved by God, you’ll feel like you have to perform at a certain, undefined and also unattainable level.

It turns out the significance of what we do isn’t wrapped up in what we do.

The Apostle Paul’s instructions to slaves in first century Colossae give us marching orders today

Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3.22-24, CSB)

These verses say nothing about what you do. But they say everything about how and why you do it.

Wholeheartedly. Not for the applause or approval of people. Work as unto the Lord for from Him you will receive your reward.

Bottom line? Your attitude and mine is what keeps what we do from being significant.

It’s not about going out and starting something new or building something bigger.

It’s about acknowledging that you are God’s handiwork and as such,  living faithfully so that you put His artistry and majesty on display for the world to see.