Our culture is incredibly acidic. Criticism is considered an art now days. If you’re pretty quick and hostile with your acrimony you can earn a good living doing it professionally on TV, in print, or online. The greater your derision skills the better. The quicker and sharper your ability to vilify the more famous you are. Speaking of famous – why do we as a society push people into the heights of fame so eagerly? We enjoy watching the glorious falls of those we’ve hoisted up.
Ever listen in on other people’s conversations? Criticism and slander are Olympic sports of sorts. Consider your own conversations and tendencies. How often are we deriding and vilifying someone? How often do we give anyone the benefit of the doubt? Why would we? We’ve been conditioned not to. We’re taught to be critical. Check your Facebook and Twitter feed. Vitriol, ridicule, mockery and cynicism rule the day. Watch the evening news? It’s 45 seconds of news followed by 45 minutes of scorn, attack and belittlement. The other 15 minutes are commercials of companies telling us why their competitor’s products are lame. Blogs – Oh, the glorious blogs! They are the sacred place where everyone can attack anyone from the safety of their keyboards.
But what if the constant consumption of negativity was toxic to our souls? What if the continual participation in critical thinking and speaking was actually harming us?
I’m convinced it does. It erodes my ability to have empathy for others. It mars relationships, wounds friends, sours my disposition and destroys me from the inside out. The scary thing is that it does all of these things and we rarely even recognize that it happening. It’s so natural and easy to criticize and consume disparagement that the damage to my soul and yours goes unnoticed for years.
I’d like us to consider taking seriously Apostle Paul’s admonition to a small band of people who were trying to follow the ways of Jesus. He told these Jesus followers in the ancient city of Philippi this:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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”. – Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:8)
Here is my 30 challenge for the start of 2014: Dramatically reduce the amount of acidic media you consume and criticism you spew. (It even rhymes)
Take a 30 day hiatus from negative Social Media – maybe even Social Media in its entirety! For 30 days no Rush, Hannity, or O’Reilly for you conservatives. No Rachel Maddow or John Stewart for Liberals. No Blogs, opinion columns or Talk Radio for 30 days. Even avoid watching ESPN’s Sports Criticism Analysis shows. For 30 days fine yourself $1 every time you make a critical comment, statement or social media post (including shares and Retweets!). At the end of the 30 day challenge donate your fines to a local charity or church. During the 30 days you reduce the criticism you consume and spew, increase the constructive habits of your life. Write random thank you notes. Be unusually kind and complimentary. Read poetry and scripture that is uplifting. For 30 days launch your new year by refusing to be critical.
After 30 days of cultural acidic detox evaluate how you feel. Examine your relationships compared with before and ask yourself: Is the criticism I consume and disseminate negatively affecting me? If so, let’s do something about it!