Sunday, July 20, 2008

True-ism: Criticism - Phil. 4:8

"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Children who are constantly criticized become sad, angry, and miserable. How is your body any different?


This has been an interesting week as I have contemplated criticism. As a matter of fact, I am actually having difficult time putting all the thoughts that have been swirling around my head into words...,but I'll press on!

One of the reasons I chose to write about Comparison (last week) back-to-back with Criticism is because I believe they go hand-in-hand. 

One of my biggest problems with the whole concept of criticism is the idea of "constructive criticism." (which I have mixed feelings about now based on the definition below), but that is for another time.

For the sake of clarification, when I am talking about criticism, it's based on these two definitions:
1.the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
2.  the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.
Of course, we can be critical about all different types of things in our lives, but since the True Campaign is about finding godly truth when relating to body issues I will share an example of this in my life.

One area that has always been the subject of my criticism has been the area from my waist to mid-thigh.  To this day I intentionally pick clothes to keep that area from looking "too hip-y". 

I can tell you the exact moment when I realized I had hips. I was seventeen years old and in a musical with a professional theater company. The costume mistress (CM) was a grouchy, unfriendly (and looking back, most likely a long time anorexic) lady in her mid 50's.  She had been a dancer back in her day, and she was very eager to point out your flaws.

During rehearsals there came a day when we all had to go in for costume fittings. The dreaded day of Weight and Measure.  When CM measured my hips, she looked up at me with disgust and said, "It's not the busty girls I mind, but the hip-y ones." 

Her words were not lost on me, I was very aware of the point she was trying to make. I also caught her critical (and unkind) way of looking at myself.

It didn't stop there.

Her comments and criticism were subtle and constant. Not just to me but to any of the other dancers who weren't rail thin.

Interestingly enough, the saddest part of criticism is that although it may be set aside for a time, it is rarely fully forgotten. It lives inside the deepest places of our hearts, and when it isn't dealt with and replaced with Truth, it will rear its ugly head. Eventually.

Long after my theater days, I found myself at a community pool with my friends and our toddlers.  I remember sitting in the water, watching our children play, and I was also people watching-- Or really I should say I was playing a game of "Watch Other Mom's and Compare Their Body to Yours." 

What I am about to tell you is not one of my proudest moments.

Obviously, there were all sorts of people at this pool of various sizes and shapes. There was a particularly large lady (whom I didn't know) whose hips carried the most of her girth. 

I was surprised when CM's voice popped into my head, It's not the busty girls I mind, but the hip-y ones.

After this lady walked past my friends and I, I remember saying out loud, "There's nothing that will make you feel better about your body than going to a public swimming pool."

That, my friends, is ugly. It hurts my heart to even admit something so openly cruel.

This certainly tells you a little bit about the frame of my mind at that time in my life, and I tell you this only to point out how criticism breeds ugliness. It is bad enough that I would even think these ugly thoughts, much less say them out loud to others. 

When we focus on the negatives in life, and are critical about areas of the body (or areas of our home or lives), it won't be long before we feel free to criticize those who are around us too.

I don't often like being around people who are highly critical of others. It's not fun to be around those who are always looking for flaws that they can point out to make themselves feel better.

I pray that God will help me recognize those critical ways in me (and change it!)...

How do we change a critical spirit?

Philippians 4:8 encourages us to think about things that are positive; things that can make a difference. Things that focus our hearts and minds on the very heart of God. We are to focus our thoughts on that which is lovely. The more we practice this, the easier it will become.

Several years ago I was carrying The Girl. We had been out on a hike and she was very tired. I put her on my back and the weight of her body was resting on my hips.  I remember laughing out loud when I thought to myself that I was actually grateful God had invented hips!  The very thing in life that had caused me such great angst had also been my greatest mothering "tool" throughout those baby carrying years. During those early toddler years I had not been focused on the praiseworthiness of a good hip to hitch a baby on! 

In that moment, I was able to see that it didn't matter what CM had to say about hip-y girls. Her dislike and critical focus on the outward appearance was really her loss. What mattered is that God had created me, with full knowledge, that someday I would be walking through the forest with a five year old hanging on my back! He knew that I would finally see that my hips had been a great help while cooking supper and holding a babies. He knew that there would come a day when I could focus on the excellence of the human body. Of my own womanly body. He knew that someday I would look at the different shapes and sizes around me, both small and larger, and understand that not one of us is ever completely happy with the body we are given. 

Am I still critical of myself? Absolutely. But now I can recognize it a little more quickly and remind myself that criticism very rarely accomplishes what I think it will. Often times it does more harm than good.

All right! Let's move forward. This week we are focusing on God's Love and Isaiah 54:10.

La Vida Dulce!


Musings of a Housewife said...

What an excellent post. And I will be honest, I've had that exact thought go thru my mind at the pool. Of course, there are also plenty of bodies to envy at the pool. But how sad that we spend so much time in comparisons. I know I do it too. Thanks for these "truisms". :-)

Beth Cotell said...

"There's nothing that will make you feel better about your body than going to a public swimming pool."

As soon as I read that line, I started to blush. I have thought that so many times.

Comparison and criticism will only lead to bad feelings.

Thanks for highlighting these true-isms and helping us to think differently.

Michelle@Life with Three said...

I really appreciate you being so transparent in this post. I've thought similar things as well. What really struck me about your post was not just the damage that comparison and criticism can cause, but it also reminded me of the power (both good and bad) that is in the words we speak. In everything we say, we can either choose to build up or tear down.

Anonymous said...

I have had those thoughts myself while "people-watching" and it certainly didn't make me feel good or better about myself. I certainly wouldn't want my young daughter to feel that way about herself or others. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Bless you!

Anonymous said...

I second what Michelle said. That old woman probably never even gave her comment a second thought but it's stuck with you all these years.

That brings to mind something I know I need to improve upon. I have been known to be critical of my own body (or muffin top more specifically) in front of my two daughters who are at a very impressionable age. It would kill me to know that my own self-directed criticism has left them wondering about their own bodies.

And the hip thing? So very true. It can be so hard to consider that when there are images constantly flashed on media sources of flat beach bellies and teensy rears and thighs.

Sorry to have written a book here, but this post really struck me. Thank you for the insight.

Carrie and Jim said...

You are great! I love this series and appreciate your honesty in every story that you tell. My story is that I used to be a very "busty girl" and many people made comments about this including my family. These comments bothered me so much that I ended up having a breast reduction. I realized that even though my body physcially changed my heart was forever hurt by their comments. My husband is so accepting and I do feel sad that he will never see me as I used to look. The great thing is that he loves me scars and all. God is so good to love us and has such wonderful plans for us if we would just trust in him, wait on him. I do feel like a fool but I suppose that it a large part of getting older and maturing.

You are a true gem! Looking forward to the next post.

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Hi Kellie.

I am SO behind on your blog and hope to get caught up soon.

Just wanted to say I LOVED this post. I am so hard on myself and my body sometimes, and in an attempt to make myself feel better I tend to put others down. Maybe not verbally, but I do some serious thinking in my head. And like you said, it's ugly and destructive. Ugh.

Thank you too, for the scriptural reminder of what we need to be thinking about out.

Jackie said...

Once again, you have expressed this so beautifully. I struggle with the comparison thing as well...I would imagine that most of us do...but it only serves to hurt us. I just need to get it from my head to my heart.