Before we get into the issue of why not to criticize our in-laws, let’s define criticism.
When I am speaking about criticism in this post, I am talking about:
- having a critical, judgmental, negative, condemning spirit toward others that cannot be pleased.
- insulting other people.
- having a negative attitude.
- looking down on others with a sense of spiritual superiority or self-righteousness.
The truth is that…
- When someone criticizes a man’s parents, he often feels an instinctive loyalty to defend them, even though he knows they aren’t perfect and may even agree with the criticism.
- When a man’s own wife criticizes his parents, she is (perhaps unknowingly) pitting herself against his family – and by extension – against him.
Of course, the same is true for us as women when someone criticizes our parents.
It can be tempting to have a critical spirit against people. I may feel completely justified to do this in my own mind. However, if I choose to dishonor, disrespect, insult, and/or criticize my husband’s parents, I need to understand the price I will pay.
- My husband will feel personally dishonored, disrespected, insulted, and criticized if I do these things to his parents, even if I don’t criticize them to anyone but to him. If I criticize or insult his parents to other people, he will feel even more hurt. He will likely feel like I have been disloyal to him, like I have committed a type of betrayal against his family.
- I will create a wall of emotional/spiritual division between myself and my husband.
- I will lose some of his trust.
- If I disrespect and criticize my husband’s parents in front of our children, I will hurt their relationship with their grandparents.
- Even if I just have a critical spirit about my in-laws (or anyone else) in my mind and don’t verbalize my thoughts to anyone else, this mindset will adversely impact my spiritual growth and walk with the Lord and my relationships with my husband and his parents.
- If I complain and have a negative attitude toward my in-laws (or anyone else), I hurt my witness for Jesus Christ.
Instead of focusing on the negative things, perhaps I can focus on something positive? The more I look for good things, the more I will probably find good things about my in-laws. When I practice thanking God for the blessings I see in others, the better my own frame of mind, and the more power I have from God to respond in His Spirit rather than in my sinful flesh. What if God wants to use the things that are so difficult to teach me something valuable and to help me find spiritual treasures? Perhaps, if I feel there is a trial with my in-laws, I can count that trial as joy (as James 1:2-4 says to do) and invite God to do His miracles in my own thinking and in my own approach. I can then also pray effectively for my in-laws, that God might richly bless them and heal any wounds they may have, as well.
The Bible has much godly wisdom about a critical spirit and how we are not justified to do this and how God calls us to change to be more like Himself by the power of His Spirit:
- A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Prov. 29:11
- “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matt. 7:1-5
- Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12
- Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1
- Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Rom. 14:4
- And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. 2 Tim. 2:24
- Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. Rom. 2:1
- Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; Rom. 14:10
- If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Cor. 13:1
- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Eph. 4:29
- Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Phil. 2:14-15
Are there times I need to respectfully share concerns with my husband about his family? Sure. There may be times I need to let my husband know that there is an important issue going on. But I can do that without condemning, bashing, insulting, attacking, criticizing, or disrespecting his parents.
Examples of a critical approach:
- Babe, I don’t want your parents to watch our kids. Your mom is such a horrible grandmother. She lets them be around their vicious dog. I don’t think she cares if they get hurt.
- Honey, do we have to go to your parents’ house this month? Their house is a total disaster. She is the worst housekeeper. My sinuses go completely crazy every time we go. It is torture for me to have to be there for even an hour.
Examples of a respectful approach:
- Babe, I want your parents to get to have lots of time with our kids. I know they love them so much. I want them to have a close relationship. However, I don’t feel that our kids are safe around their dog. I have seen the dog growl at them and snap at the baby. What are your thoughts on that?
- Honey, I know it is so important to you that we spend some time with your parents. I want us to have a great relationship with them. I do want to let you know that my allergies sometimes flare up a lot, I have noticed, when we are there. I think maybe it is a combination of the dust and perfume. I will take some medicine to try to prevent problems. Do you have any suggestions so that we can be with them but I might not have to have so many problems with allergies?
Please help us to live holy lives in our thoughts, our motives, our words, and our actions. Purify us of all sin. Purify us of negativity, a critical, judgmental spirit. Cleanse us of any self-righteousness and pride. Help us to see our in-laws, our husbands, and everyone with Your eyes and Your love. Transform our thinking by the power of Your Spirit and Your Word. Help us to approach our in-laws and everyone else in ways that bring glory and honor to Your Name.
In-law relationships can be some of the MOST difficult. Sometimes our own husbands have quite a bit of godly wisdom about how to handle their family wisely. If you need some outside help for a tough in-law situation, please check out the free counseling resources available at www.focusonthefamily.org. Or the counseling resources at www.biblicalcounseling.com. Or check with your pastor or a strong believer you trust for a referral to a solid, biblical counselor in your area. Be sure the counselor seeks to handle God’s Word correctly.
Most of all, check out what God’s Word has to say, seek the Lord’s wisdom, and the power of His Spirit so that you may respond in His goodness and overcome evil with good.
What Does the Bible Say about Criticism? – by www.gotquestions.org
What Does the Bible Say about Complaining? – by www.gotquestions.org
What Does the Bible Say about Self-Righteousness? – by www.gotquestions.org