Don’t waste your breath.

I’ve written about criticism a number of times now. A lot of what I’ve written is encouraging you, the reader, to be mindful of how you critique and how you receive critique. This blog however is about our exchange for criticism that cost nothing.

I was listening to a webinar with Jon Acuff and he shares that our exchange for criticism that costs nothing is vital. What exactly are criticisms that cost nothing? For starters, they are the hate comments we receive whenever we post a picture or share an idea. The criticisms that cost nothing are those that took little effort from the one doing the critique. Criticisms that cost nothing are the ones that stem purely from jealousy, envy, and pride. These types of criticisms that took little effort from the critic are the ones we tend to waste our breath on.

Criticism that costs nothing, is worth nothing.

-Jon Acuff

Too often our exchange for cheap criticism is all wasting our breath. We defend and plead our case to no avail. Why? To simply prove a point or to make ourselves appear we know what we’re doing? Here’s a pro tip, don’t waste your breath. What I’ve learned is, someone’s 10-second comment does not require a 10-minute response. That’s not a fair trade. A critique that took little effort and was neither constructive nor uplifting does not require me pleading my case. That position is neither arrogant nor pompous. It’s simply being wise with your exchange of time. Time is too precious to waste your breath on cheap criticism.

Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue. - Proverbs 11:12

Solomon, the author of Proverbs, was known for his wisdom. He is often recognized for his understanding of the world. In Proverbs 11:12 Solomon eloquently encourages readers to hold their tongue.

Let’s first take a look at what the first half of Proverbs 11:12 is saying; specifically, the word derides. According to Google, it means to express contempt for; ridicule. Synonyms that fall into the same word group as derides are, insult, taunt, ridicule, mock, torment, and the list goes on. Now let’s get back to the verse. It can be read, Whoever [insults, taunt, ridicule, mock, torment] has no sense. So your neighbor who’s your friend, family, co-worker, social media follower, or even a bystander, when they insult, taunt, ridicule, mock, or torment you has no sense. That’s not to say they are dull rather the place from which they speak isn’t one of value.

While it’s easy to simply focus on the first half of Proverbs 11:12, don’t be quick to bask simply in that. The real meat is found in the second half. Solomon charges those who read his work or the one who has understanding, to hold their tongue. The key is our response to cheap criticism. When we hold our tongues and waste not our breath, that shows understanding. That shows maturity. That shows our understanding in first, who God says we are, and secondly, that which we know we are called to do.

People will always have something to say. Whether family or someone you’re meeting for the first time, they will always have something to say. And while in most cases, they mean well, you will find there are occasions where cheap criticism is given more than ones that matter. If you find yourself surrounded by 10-second, half thought-through criticism, don’t waste your breath with a response. Hold your tongue and keep on with the goal you have set before you. It’s not a fair exchange to give 10 minutes of your time to a 10-second comment. It’s not worth your breath to beat a dead horse. Often those that deride are jealous, envious, and prideful which can translate to hearts that are dead to see good. Don’t waste your breath. Hold your tongue and keep on keeping on.

Criticism that costs nothing, is worth nothing.

-Jon Acuff

Jealous Much?

Have you ever typed into Google, “Stories about Jealousy?” I have. There are some crazy stories out there. Interestingly, I found that jealousy is always between two people. More specifically, they were almost always between a man and woman who were either in a relationship, married or were in some form closely connected. In the previous blog, I touched on envy and how we can use this to help us become a better version of ourselves. Not condoning the character, rather, shifting that mindset towards a greater purpose and goal in life.

Envy and jealousy are closely related, however there are a particular difference between the two. Envy is a longing for more. It is wanting the advantages of others’ possessions, attributes or status in life. Jealousy on the other hand is more anguish towards the “enemy.” Jealousy is more than covetousness. It’s so deep within the roots of our hearts that it drives us to do the unthinkable. One unthinkable is when we experience schadenfreude. That is a fancy word for someone who enjoys the misfortune of others. Of course, we would never admit that.

Study researcher Wilco W. Van Dijk, says

this can be due to thinking the other person deserves the misfortune, and so becoming less envious of them or feeling better about one’s self.

You know what I’m talking about. That smirk you get on your face when someone doesn’t get that job they applied for because you’re in a rut yourself and cannot help they advance before you. Or that friend whose marriage ended in divorce and secretly you’re laughing at their failure because when comparing your marriage with theirs you’ve always wanted what they have and now you’re satisfied they have what you have, brokenness. Maybe it’s that friend whose business venture failed, and you think, “finally” they’ve failed in life because you’ve been too coward to take a chance and start something for yourself.

Those are pretty harsh, I know. But we’re being real, right? This is reality. For some of you, you relate closely to those examples. Jealousy is real and if not admitted, can quickly turn into death. May not all be physical, but emotional and spiritual death. So how can we stop experiencing schadenfreude?

You’ve probably heard about that one guy that got swallowed by a big fish. His name is Jonah. He is a prime example of a man who experienced schadenfreude. Who knows why he disliked the Ninevites so much, but whatever reason it may be, this guy wanted to see Nineveh destroyed? Now, he wasn’t jealous at the Ninevites. Jonah actually despised God’s mercy. Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites to experience forgiveness. He knew God would freely give this to them, should they repent. So, he ran. And when that didn’t work, he reluctantly told the Nineties to repeat and ask for forgiveness only to find a comfy seat in hopes to watch God destroy a people and land. When Jonah realized God wasn’t about destruction, he went so far as to throw a pity party and even wished death upon himself.

Jealous of God’s mercy and love, Jonah revealed the root of jealousy. That is – self-righteousness. Believing he deserved better and was more worthy, Jonah only showed how narrow-mindedly moralistic he really was. In addition, it revealed a sense of insecurity hidden within self-righteousness. Jonah exalted himself and looked down on those he believed should suffer for not meeting the mark. None of this removes the fact that Jonah was a great prophet. Indeed, he was chosen by God. And maybe just maybe for this simple purpose; teaching us what mercy and love looks like.

So, is this your heart? Be honest with yourself. Do you want to see someone else’s life crumble? Are you waiting for someone to fail to feel good about yourself? Do you think you are better than others?

Admitting this is a step in the right direction. The next steps are more practical and will take some courage. Whether you call yourself a Christ-follower I challenge you to say a prayer asking God to soften your heart. That’s just a fancy way of asking God to help you see people as He does and not through a self-righteous, narrow-mindedly moralistic and jealous lens. Be real and call things as they are. Don’t sugar coat it! Here’s a secret, that prayer worked on me.

I’d also challenge you to connect with that person or persons you’re having a hard time rejoicing with or seeing their progressive success. Glean from those who you struggle to be around. And for those you’ve rejoiced in their failures, place yourself in their shoe. Shift your perspective. The reality is, you could be right where they are and what you’d need more than anything is a friend who genuinely would stand by your side. Be that friend. Be who God was and still is. A friend.

Are you ready to rid of schadenfreude?