What is self-criticism?
Have you ever wondered how many times we criticize ourselves for things that we’re not necessarily responsible for or for things that do not directly depend on our own actions, but that still torment our Soul and harm our lives?
There are social standards, expectations that very often were not created by us, but that we condition ourselves to meet and that reinforce our excessive self-criticism, which burdens us with unnecessary anxiety and makes us suffer.
In His infinite Mercy, Jesus warned us about this when He said in His Holy Gospel according to Matthew 6:34:
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
We are surrounded by false examples of how to be successful that focus only on economic and commercial goals and don’t consider the values of our Spirit. They prevent us from having tranquility in our Soul and discernment regarding the choices we make.
They are pressures we’re under that tell us what our body should look like, how we should dress and behave, how we should act, and what to aspire to professionally, educationally, domestically, and in our relationships, and with regard to so many other things that we are “obliged” to master or achieve, without considering our own unique characteristics and the capabilities God gave us.
Because of all this, shaping our lives giving in to external demands is profoundly harmful to our development as immortal Souls, as the Eternal Spirits we all are.
In the Holy Bible, we find an account to which we can relate. This is the famous passage in which Jesus observes the behavior of Martha and Mary (the Holy Gospel of Christ according to Luke 10:38-42) and from which we can draw a valuable lesson:
38 As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him.
39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,
42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
In this illustrative text, we see that Jesus is not diminishing the importance of hygiene in the home and of maintaining domestic care, but He’s alerting us to the priorities we choose in our lives and to the fact that self-criticism just of material issues leads us to act with excessive restlessness and worries.
This distracts us from perceiving the “what is better” part, that is, the opportunities that Christ puts in our path for us to be with Him through love and fraternal coexistence with our fellow beings.
Martha was distracted, as we often are when we let so many social pressures overwhelm us and distance us from what is essential: sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him, and acting in accordance with His precious lessons.
The pragmatism in the Good that Mary presented enabled her to conquer the greatest achievement, which is knowing how to distinguish the most important things, regardless of what others might say about us.
The President-Preacher of the Religion of God, of the Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, José de Paiva Netto, explains the value of this decision, saying:
“What determines our destiny is not the will of others. It is our decision in Christ Jesus! So, we should not be anxious about the future. We must do our part, with complete commitment, as Jesus advises, when He warns that we must pray and watch (work).”
We know that given the hectic life we live, it is not always easy to organize our time well and observe the spiritual security each choice we make provides us with.
If we also add the challenges imposed by the pandemic, we will really see that everything is passing by faster and faster, and controlling tasks that are our responsibility seems to be getting out of hand. However, there’s no reason to give up, much less to despair.
Jesus does not demand that we be perfect, but He presents us with spiritual reeducation so we can overcome excessive self-criticism.
Among so many of His lessons, let’s dwell on five:
- The first is praying. Jesus prayed and taught us to pray. We can turn our thoughts to Christ in any situation and ask for His infallible support. This will give us the serenity to assess the different circumstances around us.
- The second is asking for help. In several biblical passages, we see the stories of Jesus’ support for those who sought help. He values our willingness to seek help in the face of so many struggles.
- The third is remembering that we’re not alone. We can always count on Him and find people around us who can help us. Although being the Master of masters, Jesus counted on His disciples in the work of redeeming Souls. We, too, can delegate some tasks and rely on other people’s ability to perform them.
- The fourth is not being consumed with guilt. The feeling of guilt imprisons us in remorse and pain. It doesn’t help us improve. Repentance, on the other hand, drives us on, as we seek to redeem the mistakes we’ve made.
Jesus said that He came for us, who have committed errors. He came to call “sinners [that is, those who make mistakes] to repentance” (the Gospel according to Luke 5:32). The Heavenly Educator did not come to judge; but to give us the opportunity to redeem ourselves, because He wants us to be victorious.
- Finally, and we’d like to emphasize this, not acting as others expect us to act, but with conscience inspired by God. The foundation of Christ’s conduct is the Love of His New Commandment—“Love one another, as I have loved you. Only by this shall all of you be recognized as my disciples” (the Gospel according to John 13:34 and 35).
He taught us that however difficult the circumstance, however great the suffering, there is only one way to free ourselves from conventions and act correctly, considering our spiritual origin, which is trying to apply His Solidary Divine Love as the basis of our decisions.
As Brother Paiva reminds us, when faced with any situation, we must ask ourselves: “What would Jesus do if He were in my place?”
Many other lessons taught by Christ help us overcome excessive self-criticism and gain spiritual wisdom to live happier lives. We’re going to share some articles that will enable you to continue delving into this journey of self-knowledge and realizing how Ecumenical Spirituality can help us overcome our daily challenges: