Summary: Questions to ask yourself when you are tempted to criticize.

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According to the old western ballad, "Home on the Range", the range was a place, "where never is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day."

Fanciful thought. Never hearing a discouraging word would be pleasant. But that really wasn’t true in the old west and it’s certainly not realistic in our lives either.

We can’t expect our lives to be totally free of discouraging news. The doctor may tell us we have a certain illness - but we need to hear about it in order to seek proper treatment. The mechanic may give us a bad report about our car. That too, is unfortunately necessary so repairs can be made. At times we all need to hear constructive comments to adjust our course of living.

But there are also discouraging words that are UN-necessary. Critical comments made by people who have never given serious consideration to the proper use of God’s gift of speech.

People who are still so ignorant that they believe, "If I think it, I might as well say it."

We’ve all been guilty. God’s Word says no man can control the tongue. (James 3:8) Our gift of verbal communication must be influenced by God Himself if it is to be properly exercised.

One of the prime offences of utterance is constrictive criticism. Constrictive criticism is the antithesis of constructive criticism. Its purpose is not to build up but rather to tear down.

A prime biblical example takes place in our Scripture.

Moses’ own sister and brother let their lips get loose and before you know it they were saying things they would later regret.

How do you keep yourself from making a mess with your mouth?

Here are several questions to ask yourself before you loosen your lips for criticism.

1. Are my comments against the person, or against something the person is doing or saying?

There is nothing at all wrong with trying to help our leaders or anyone else see things about themselves that need improving. But the "why" and the "way" in which we carry out our mission are vitally important.

The attack of Miriam and Aaron on their little brother was personal, not ideological.

We can always tell if our criticism is taking the wrong tone when we begin to attack the person.

Whether we are talking with our spouse, a friend, a co-worker, or someone in authority over us - if we feel criticism is absolutely necessary, it should not be directed toward the person. Instead, it should lovingly be directed at what the person is saying or doing that needs tweaking.

2. Does my criticism mask the real reason for my verbal attack?

Miriam and Aaron were critical of Moses for marrying a woman of another race. Truth is, prohibitions against interracial marriage are man-made. They didn’t originate with God. (Yes, God did tell His people not to inter-marry with non-believers, but that is certainly not a race issue.)

The attack on Moses’ integrity was simply a smokescreen to draw attention away from the real reason his siblings were upset with him. They were upset that all of the attention and all of the speaking opportunities were going to Moses. (Verse 2)

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