Have you ever had somebody condemn you for something you’ve done? It didn’t feel good did it? It feels like you have no hope past this. Like there is no reconciliation past this. Like there’s no redemption. But there may be a problem with your perception – and there may not be – let’s evaluate it!
We really need to define condemn before we can speak directly to the word. You see, the problem with the English language is that it’s not just the word that needs to be understood, it’s the context and spirit in which it is delivered.
- Express complete disapproval of, typically in public; censure.
- Sentence (someone) to a particular punishment, esp. death: “the rebels had been condemned to death”.
convict – denounce – censure – sentence – decry – doom
Alright, so let’s get real, is that okay? As much as I don’t like to be corrected (and I don’t think anybody does) there are times when somebody’s disapproval should be expressed and there are times when sentencing needs to occur. So the direct definition of condemn is more along the lines of being punished for something one has done wrong. If we aren’t punished for things we do wrong it’s more likely we are going to do those things again.
THE CONTEXT AND SPIRIT IN WHICH IT IS DONE
As we’ve established, correction is necessary, and condemn really does fit into the realm of correction. However, here is where condemnation goes wrong, the context and spirit in which it’s done. You see, if we looked up the word criticize, which is a synonym of censure, which is a synonym of condemn we would see a proper form of condemnation.
- Indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way: “they criticized the failure of Western nations”.
- Form and express a judgment of (a literary or artistic work).
censure – animadvert – carp – review
Indicate the faults of (someone or something; that has to be done in life, and remember it’s for your own good. It’s to make you better and more successful. It’s to help the overall outcome of your life. So don’t take it so personally, simply apply what you learned from the criticism and move on!
However, when you condemn somebody the wrong way there is guilt involved. You work to make them feel small. You work to belittle them. You work on their emotions and you work on their self esteem.
That’s the kind of condemnation I’m talking about, and that’s the kind of condemnation the scripture speaks against (John 8:10-11). You see, in this passage of scripture the scribes and Pharisees were seeking to harm both Jesus and the woman by condemning her – to death – but as Jesus began to write in the dirt they all began to realize that their plan wasn’t working out. He began to reveal who they were and what their sins were. That’s why none of them could cast the first stone.
But then Jesus turns to the woman and said I don’t condemn you either – I simply forgive you for what you’ve done – go and sin no more.
There is a fine line between criticism and the type of condemnation I’m talking about. The type that is meant to harm the other person, not correct them. The type that is meant to belittle the other person, not fix them.
BE MERCIFUL BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO NEED IT TOO
The Bible states that blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7). You need to be merciful toward others because you’re going to need some mercy yourself. If you condemn folks, the way we’ve been talking about, then it’s coming your way. But, if you can learn to criticize instead, not spitefully but helpfully, you will find that the same thing is returned to you.
Again, there is a very fine line between criticism and condemnation.
So the next time you feel the need to correct somebody, remember these two things, criticize helpfully and find mercifulness so that those two things can be returned to you in kind.
I challenge you today to be merciful in your judgements and actions towards others. You have the power to kill somebody with your tongue. There is a fine line between criticism and condemnation.
Criticize to help people grow, but don’t condemn them. It’s easy to get caught up condemning folks and we don’t even know we’re doing it!
Until next time, take care of yourselves and I hope that this has helped you!