The kids and I love to watch Chopped – the Food Network show where amateur chefs are competing in a cooking competition. They go through rounds of cooking an appetizer, then the main dish and then the dessert. One cook is “chopped” each round. At the end, it is down to two cooks only and the judges then decide who did the best through the whole competition and they are declared the winner. The kids and I have so much fun watching this show! We love to see how the cooks will handle the mystery baskets, and as we watch them cook we are critiquing their technique, their presentation, and their attitudes! By the end of the show, we definitely have our favorites.
What is amazing in this show is how little it takes for a judge to chop a contestant. It may be because his food was good but the presentation was sloppy, it could be because he just forgot to use one ingredient in the basket, or that he did not infuse that ingredient in the food the right way. It does not matter to the judges. One tiny mistake is all it takes for them to look at you and say, “I’m sorry. You have been chopped.”
Do you ever feel like life does that to you at times? Do you ever feel that you are under the scrutiny of many who, without being asked, are analyzing your every move just waiting for you to make that one error that will allow them to chop away at you? Has this happened in your marriage? In your church? In your family? In your work?
For me, I feel that pressure at times in many areas. Just last night, I had a dream about being in a store and shopping. I looked across the parking lot and there was a van loaded with all my closest friends and they were going into a restaurant together. I rolled over to them and said “hi” and they all looked real uncomfortable seeing me and said that they were sorry that they didn’t invite me but there really wasn’t very good handicap seating in that restaurant. CRAZY dream! But, I think I feel pressure sometimes that I may be a burden to some of my friends and I don’t ever want to be! For the record, my friends have never, and would never, do that. But, I think the dream brought out a fear that lives inside of me at times. This worry that if I am ever a burden, that they will chop me out of their lives.
What about marriage? You ever feel you get the raw end sometimes? Ever feel like you try to do everything right but somehow you still aggravate your man? Or maybe he tries to do everything right and you have NO patience for him? The slightest offences in our marriages can turn into huge chopping episodes where you just hack away at one another. In the end, you both are hurt and nothing has been accomplished. I have been so guilty of this!
Maybe you feel the pressure at work to have to keep your performance perfect. Our work is the ministry and sometimes the most wearying of all is dealing with critical people. Those who have made it their job to analyze everything you do and then let you know how you are doing it all wrong. Sometimes your criticizers are in your church, but many times, it is from others in ministry who don’t like what you are doing. You will be labeled and gossiped about. I know that the workplace can be a dog eat dog world and job security is a big pressure.
Maybe it is friends and family. Maybe you have made decisions for your family and others don’t like it. Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom and you have family that criticize because they want you to work. Maybe you have to work and you get criticized because you aren’t home. Maybe you home school and you get criticized for not putting your kids in the public school. Maybe your kids are in the public school and you get criticized for not homeschooling. Maybe you get criticized for not feeding your family healthy enough, not exercising, not keeping your house the way others think you should, and on and on and on. It is amazing to me what criticism I have heard from others since becoming disabled. Things like, “Your poor husband – 6 kids and wife in a wheelchair”, or “Oh, I bet your oldest daughter has so much on her!!” or “I hate your wheelchair. It is become your excuse to live in sin.” or “Your daughter is more of a mother to the kids than you are now.” or “Your kids will resent you when they grow up because of your disability.” Yes, these things have been said to me. In reality, these people are chopping away at any kind of security you may have left after a major disability. It is very, very hard to block out these voices in your head sometimes….no matter how many times you sing, “Let It Go!”
Why? Why do people take it upon themselves to either chop away at your life or to chop you out of their lives? Since I have been guilty of doing this to others, I will give the reasons that I believe make it so easy to do this and hurt others.
- I think I am the judge.
On the show Chopped, the judges are there for a reason. It is their job to analyze and make the final declaration. The contestants know who the judges are and they are prepared to stand before the judge. Many times, when I get overly critical and analytical of other’s lives, it is because I have set myself up as a judge.
We have one Judge in this life, my friend, and that is God. No matter how we want to spiritualize our “discerning spirits”, Romans 14:10-12 should not be argued with.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
God said that there will be no other gods set before Him. That includes me. If I engage myself in the activities of analyzing and judging another person’s life – for right or wrong – I am putting myself in the place of God. He is the only Judge and so I had better be careful trying to rise above His territory. This sobers me greatly!
- I am insecure.
I have noticed that when I start to criticize someone, it is because I feel threatened somehow. If you have more liberty in your preferences than me, maybe I am critical because I feel trapped or am jealous. If criticism is in church, maybe it is because I am feeling guilty because I don’t do as much in the church and feel jealous that you are doing something. Maybe if another church is growing and ours isn’t, I am critical because I am trying to find a reason to tear them down so I don’t feel as bad about my own. I could go on and on with examples, but for me, I find that much of what I criticize stems from more of a problem within myself than a problem with that person. Hurting people hurt people. Plain and simple.
- I am just plain old mean.
Seriously, don’t you ever feel this way? I do sometimes. I think it is in all of us to be plain old mean. We think things, and then many times say things, that should never be said. I have had dreams where I completely tell somebody off. I wake up and it felt so good! That works in a dream, but it doesn’t work so well in real life. It accomplishes very little except to let others know how you lack control of your temper and disposition. When you have anger in your heart, it will come boiling out. So, it is not just a controlling of the tongue we need. We need control of our spirit.
You don’t have to tell people off. Blessed are the peace makers…not the peace keepers.You should reach out and try to work things out, but some people don’t want to work anything out. Many times, when people say such mean and hurtful things, they are revealing more about themselves than about you. I have learned after being hurt many times and trying to reach out to make things right, that many people do not want things to be right. They want things to be wrong. I have done this myself! What is it about holding out on someone that makes us feel so superior? It is a feeling of power (that is fed by pride) that makes us feel we have the upper hand. Here, someone is wanting to restore a relationship, and we have the power to say no….or at least, until I say that it is time. That is really sad and I am ashamed at the times I have done it to others.
I think we can fall into both of these places. At times, we feel like a contestant in life surrounded by a myriad of others who are criticizing and analyzing our every move. . On the other side, we have placed ourselves in the judges booth peaking over the edge of our superior glasses condemning the motives and heart of others. We need not engage in either one!
Jesus is the most beautiful example of how to be. Isn’t that surprising? He was condemned, criticized and judged harshly. He was told that He did the works of Satan, He was told that He was breaking God’s laws, He was told that He was not Who He said He was, and even His own family turned on Him and times. What did He do? I never see Him arguing and screaming His business. He just did it. He knew that He answered only to His Father and He did His Father’s will. This is what we must do.
On the other hand, Jesus was the Son of God and could have come to earth zapping the life right out of all us sinners. But He didn’t. He said that He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world could be saved through Him! How is our “saving” business? No, we do not save others, Jesus does. But others should see the love of Christ in us so that they can see Jesus in me! I love the old quote, “You can’t make a horse drink water, but you can salt his oats and make him thirsty.” We are to be the salt of the earth. If I am so busy criticizing and analyzing how other’s live, they will NOT see Jesus in that. On a side note, the harshest words Jesus ever said on this earth were to the religious crowd. That should be a lesson to us in itself.
As I look at my own life, I want to chop away at myself. I want to chop out pride, selfishness, jealousy, spiritual superiority (which isn’t spiritual at all), negativity, hatefulness, bitterness, meanness, a bad attitude, a grumbling heart, anger, and on and on. I want a Jesus heart. A heart that defended the helpless, was compassionate towards those who were entrapped by sin, a heart that forged ahead in spite of the accusations hurled against Him, and a heart that was so full of love for us, that He gave His own life for mine. The evidence of our salvation (“by this shall men know that you are my disciples”) and our love for God, according to the Bible, is our love for others. That is pretty serious stuff. Others only truly know of my love for God by my love for them. Want a sobering question? How would those who know you, based on the way you show love to them, describe your love for God?
Whether you are a chopper, have been chopped, or maybe a combination of both at times (like me), let’s quit. Every contestant that leaves the show Chopped is either sad or mad. No one has ever been “chopped” and was happy about it. I would say that is pretty accurate in life also. I am not going to be a contestant and play the game. I don’t answer to my “judges”. I answer to God. I am not going to play the game and be a judge. It is not my role in life. God can handle this world just fine all by Himself.
I’m going to my kitchen and cook my own food. 🙂