Criticism and Gardening: Keeping My Mouth Shut

At just a little over 24 hours into the no-criticism challenge, I met a friend and colleague for lunch. Not 15 minutes into our time together, I found myself sharply inhaling to keep from making a critical remark: "Ugh, he is so..." [STOP. ]
 
"But it's not fair that she..."

"They can really be..."

About one week in, and I'm now trying to develop a new habit: keeping my mouth shut.


That I am quick to speak is no surprise. That I act out of emotion more often than I'd like is nothing new. But admitting that I am so critical, negative, quick to tear down someone is actually surprising to me; I don't like describing myself that way. It's something I dislike in others. It wounds others. It destroys relationships. Speaking words of criticism without certain trust and safety in the relationship (we'll get to that eventually) are just bad for everybody. 

It often disguises itself as "venting" and "speaking truthfully" and even as "constructive criticism," the latter being something that we do need but don't always use wisely.

One night last week I was stirring a pot on the stove while talking to Jeff, and I almost responded to something he said with criticism about someone. SHARP INHALE. I caught myself. I did not speak it. In fact, I did this several times last week. 

I've also let words of criticism spill out anyway, only to realize after it was too late. It is clear that this is a habit which fills my days.

But there's one place I don't criticize: in the garden. The work is hard, and the joy is deep. There's no criticism - just sweat and dirt and sprouting seeds. I blog in some way about the garden every year; I get really gushy about it. There's so much life and flourishing in which to participate, to see. And this year, I'm connecting it to my no-criticism challenge. If life and flourishing is so important to me - if I want to be a part of that in my garden and home and neighborhood and community - then I want to look inward and acknowledge the ways that criticism is not helping me contribute to life and flourishing.

newly planted rosemary
 
baby basil

Do you want to follow along and join the challenge in some way? Here's what I'm looking for/thinking about in the following week of my challenge: Why am I critical? Am I displeased with something about myself? Am I envious of something in another person? Am I just mean?

Wishing you grace with others and grace with yourselves as you seek to be less critical. 

2 comments

  • Danielle Fisher

    Danielle Fisher

    Abby, I came a way from a week and weekend full of so much criticism, from myself, my friends, my family. Negativity seemed to be permeating out of all of us. To be fair, we were all really exhausted and stressed for numerous reasons, but that is no excuse. If anything, the tiredness simply reveals where our hearts really are and what we are quick to resort to when we are weak instead of filling our minds and tongues with goodness, praise, truth, and kindness. The most difficult part of a challenge like this is *remembering* before the criticism slips out of your mouth. I appreciate the questions you asked at the end, because ultimately our criticism and our habit of criticism is the result of the condition of our hearts. Before we can truly break the habit, we have to address our attitude and our heart. Taking this to heart today. Thank you!!! Dani xoxo

    Abby, I came a way from a week and weekend full of so much criticism, from myself, my friends, my family. Negativity seemed to be permeating out of all of us. To be fair, we were all really exhausted and stressed for numerous reasons, but that is no excuse. If anything, the tiredness simply reveals where our hearts really are and what we are quick to resort to when we are weak instead of filling our minds and tongues with goodness, praise, truth, and kindness.

    The most difficult part of a challenge like this is *remembering* before the criticism slips out of your mouth. I appreciate the questions you asked at the end, because ultimately our criticism and our habit of criticism is the result of the condition of our hearts. Before we can truly break the habit, we have to address our attitude and our heart. Taking this to heart today. Thank you!!!

    Dani xoxo

  • Jill Gandy

    Jill Gandy Iowa

    Set a guard over my mouth Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 I'm in!

    Set a guard over my mouth Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3

    I'm in!

Add comment