I had a blast judging today. It was a wonderful feeling to sit in a cold metal chair with no nervous churning in my stomach and watch. Not idly, but watch with an open mind. Not having to think, "That's a good argument, but this would be better." Not having to think, "Oh dear, what will I say in response to that?" When I normally watch a round, I put myself in the competitor's position. But today, I was in the judge's position. All I had to do was listen to what I was told. And comment on it. And of course I was at home passing out criticism.
So, my brother is getting older. He's developing facets of his personality that I just didn't see when he was drooly high-maintenance toddler or a brooding and video games obsessed seven year old. And while I adore my little brother and think he's fantastic, I'm also highly critical of him, always telling him to stand up straight or say please and thank you. I love him, and I want him to be above reproach. I see this so clearly now in my mom, every time she challenges me with her disapproval -- she is disappointed in me because she loves me, and she knows I can be better.
But sometimes I forget this kind of thing is limited in its effectiveness outside the family model. Sometimes it's not just my brother that's the target of my "love-motivated criticism" but my friends get some flak, too. The careless muttered piracy warnings or the over-dramatized rebukes must sound so much like nagging, so hypocritical. I want watch the people I love be refined into their restored image in Christ . . . and somehow I think pointing out the room for improvement will make that happen? I forget that criticism is only encouragement when it's rooted in love. [And I forget that whole bit about sanctification not coming to fruition on this earth. That significant bit.]
While my family understands that I love them, and that I will always love them, and that my criticism is born of this love . . . I can't expect everyone to understand this.
I think, sometimes friends are people we can be human with. Rest in our humanity and how inherently cracked and flawed and not enough we are. And yes, people provide a motivation to pursue righteousness, but those aren't the kind of expectations that produce anything God can use unless they're mixed portion for portion with a Spirit-filled love. That sounds cliche. Terribly cliche. But how else can I describe it? I think, sometimes the best encouragement is less about what you could do better or what you've done well, and more about I understand. Forgive me. I'm figuring out how to love you like I ought to.