A couple of years ago, one of my mentors told me that you’re never more tempted to sin, than when you’ve been sinned against.
I think it makes a good quote deserving of all caps…
YOU’RE NEVER MORE TEMPTED TO SIN,
THAN WHEN YOU’VE BEEN SINNED AGAINST
I went to her after I had gone through a time when I was being criticized by a woman running a gossip/slander blog that has now since become private. Every post I made, this woman found a way to turn it into something to mock… right down to attacking my husband and children. Other women, even Christian ones I looked up to previously, jumped in on the mocking and gossip, and it was weird to see that even the supposedly Christian ones were doing this. It lasted for a good half a year before I confronted her at her blog source, only to have the confrontation end in more pain and frustration. Talking about it being sin with other people was labeled as “gossip.” It was a very interesting time as I tried to figure out how to handle slander (being called a whore, slut and a bitch by a Christian man) as well as this being tailed for half the year by this Christian woman. What was even stranger were the other Christian women who regularly commented on these posts mocking what I was writing, yet they couldn’t see they were doing anything wrong.
It’s really sad that we humans operate this way, myself totally and thoroughly included. It’s part of our “normal” sin nature, but it’s so ugly and harmful, I surprise even myself with how easily I can give in to this temptation. And rest assured, I’m talking about myself here, having a sin nature is not fun. It is kind of shocking how bad we can be when we’re not actively guarding our mouths and minds and spirits. It reminds me of Paul in Romans 7:18-22, where he wanted so badly to do good, but would sometimes find himself backsliding into the flesh behaviors that he hated in himself.
18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
I think it’s crucial to be honest that everyone has these feelings and temptations from time to time, even a man as godly as Paul. I believe that, ultimately, it’s how we choose to deal with the temptations that matters in the long-run. We have to strive to be like Paul and avoid and flee temptation, repent when we do give in to sin, and then allow for enough grace for ourselves and others when or if we backslide.
Last week I was wondering why someone would focus so much energy on giving in to sinful temptations… specifically, the temptation to engage in destructive criticism about another person (aka: Gossip & Slander). I did an experiment to try to get someone engaging in it to see what they looked like, and to understand it within myself. I succeeded in making them understand how bad it looked, the experiment definitely worked. Overall, it was enlightening… and scary at how once you start (even if you think you’re only going so far) it can quickly go down hill.
I think I’ve found the answer… the root of why criticism can lead to being a stumbling block, and it comes from this quote at the beginning of the post that was told to me by my mentor: “You’re never more tempted to sin than when you’re sinned against.”
Being a Stumbling Block through Criticism
Romans 14 has always fascinated me. I’ve written on it before, here , but I wanted to look at it again from a different perspective.
There used to be a pretty benign young woman who commented fairly frequently here. I always had a feeling that she was trying to get me to change my views on each post I made – she was always so full of constructive criticism and gave it out freely. Everything about me was up for criticism from this young woman – from the way I dressed to my diet and breastfeeding. A lot of it was good, and I’d take it and make necessary changes, or try to see if I was getting it truly wrong, but overtime, it started to feel more like purposeful fault-finding or destructive criticism, and I felt myself changing inside toward her as well.
It got to the point where I would find myself starting to see flaws in her posts and arguments, whereas I’d never argued with her before over her writing. And instead of minding my own business (something I’ve written about before!), I’d feel rightful in pointing them out to her publicly – in a “constructive” way like she did though 😉 . I knew it was probably not the right thing to do, even if I couched it in “constructive criticism“… it’s a little much to be “correcting” someone all the time so why was she doing this? I justified my fault-finding habit at her blog by telling myself that well, SHE was doing it to me, so why can’t I do it back to her? Let’s just say being criticized by her nearly every week affected me lol. I actually still try not to go to her blog because all I see are the flaws and faults in her biblical arguments. It’s amazing how the way we act toward others has so much power over the way they in turn feel tempted to deal with us.
Why are humans like this?
I think Romans 14 holds the key to this. Criticism, especially over issues that don’t really matter that much, make us become stumbling blocks.
“Therefore let us stop criticizing one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” (vs 13)
Why does the Bible warn us that criticism can be a “stumbling block” to other believers? I think the answer is that when it’s not done in love, or even when it’s done over and over again in a constructive way, it’s actually sinning against the person you’re criticizing or leading them to exasperation with you. So when you SIN against that person, you’re TEMPTING them to sin back. Or if you’re trying to just constantly correct someone on their convictions (which Romans 14 tells us blatantly not to), you’re going to make them tempted to view you negatively. This is especially true if you’ve been overly harsh or engaged in sinful destructive criticism, you’ve just become a stumbling block for that person, making it harder for them in their spiritual walk.
Wow, right? Pretty scary how criticism, even when we think it should be “constructive,” can be so hurtful and harmful to our Christian brothers and sisters in damaging their walks with God.
Pretty serious stuff. Now that I carried out my own psyche experiment on this topic, I think I understand even more so just how important this post was in the past.
Instead of being a stumbling block, why not become a stepping stone to helping build others up on their spiritual journies? I’m talking to my own inclinations here 😉
Good food for thought.