Updated: Dec 22, 2018
After too many minutes of mindless scrolling on social media, I made a hard stop on this post:
The three c's of ruining your day: Criticizing, complaining and comparing. If you cut the three c's out of your day, you will be left with peace, joy and gratefulness. ~Andreas Stein
I showed it to my husband and we agreed how those three C’s can go beyond ruining your day and into destroying relationships. We aligned it to a similar message of unity in one of our favorite sermons on marriage by Craig Groeschel. These three C’s are a perfect example of ways Craig describes we break unity in relationships. These habits shift the “I” to the wrong place... they untie what God has meant to unite. The "I" goes first. Not selfishly, but with courage to lead by example. This unity message was so powerful to us that our marriage vows were built around it. We tied a unity cord to reflect Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV); A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
It could be true that criticizing, complaining and comparing keeps us on our toes, but those toes are walking on eggshells. While the words might come easy, they are also destructive to the relationship because they are fueled by judgment, not love.
So, let's reveal some hard things about harsh words:
When I criticize, it feels good for a brief moment to shift attention away from myself. I often get critical because I am harshly judging my own insecurities or chose to take offense. When I’m in a place of grace and acceptance, I often don't need to criticize because I'm too busy loving.
When I complain, it’s often because I’m spending more time talking about the problem than 1) praying about it, and 2) focusing on what I can do to solve the issue.
When I compare, I’m judging something or someone as being greater than or less than. It's hard to judge and compare while simultaneously finding potential. Comparing keeps us looking horizontal at "everybody else" instead of keeping our eyes vertical, on God, and our own stuff.
Many times we fall into the trap of thinking, “Well, if people would get their stuff together then I wouldn’t have to resort to the three C’s.” I hear you. I've said that many times. And, I also know that using hope as my strategy that others will change hasn’t worked either. So I can turn the power of my my personal happiness back to its real owner - ME. Given that I want to unite and not untie, I can go first to move the "I" in the right spot. So what if we replaced this easy-to-remember "Three C's" with more loving and helpful C’s?
I can correct. I can see where I need to fix my own stuff first. I can be clear about what I need. I can set healthy boundaries. Many of the things we blow out of proportion (chores, hobbies, habits) are little distractions to be course corrected not criticized, which creates big divisions.
I can compliment (or complement). I can go first by giving love in the form of compliments and words of affirmation. I can build unity by complementing the goals my loved ones have by offering my unconditional support.
I can collaborate by working together to solve problems. It’s not you versus me. It’s you and me and God as one team working towards the same outcome.
Surely, I will mess this up more often than I’d like. We all fall victim to the thought that if the other person would change, then we can get back on track and be happy. But that leaves me in a helpless place and transfers the power of my happiness to other people. It distracts me from what God has already given me: a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
Friends, we don’t need to criticize ourselves when we get off course, we can simply correct and unite ourselves back to our purpose be thankful for the timely gift of self-awareness. Forgive yourself. Get right with the fact that sometimes you’ll get it wrong - it’s the foundation to boldly go first to create the relationships we desire. ----- Practical Spirit: What's one thing I can do differently today to help move us toward our relationship goals?