Criticism Is Not An Olympic Sport by the Rev. Will Compton

A few years ago, I ran in a 5k race during the Bishop’s BBQ held at Gray Center. After the race, I was surprised to hear my name called when Bishop Gray began handing out awards. Never did I expect to finish third in my age group. I felt as if I had accomplished something. There were many people participating in the 5k who were serious runners, and I was not one of them. Not only was this my first 5k, but this was my first race ever and I had come away with the bronze. As I went up to receive my reward from Bishop Gray, I wondered just how many folks were in my age group. How many people did I outrun to take home the bronze? I never should have asked. I had a good laugh when I found out the answer was three.

We are coming off the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For two weeks, we have cheered on Team USA from the couch in our living room. Cocktail conversations have centered around Simone, Michael, and Katie. For a lot of folks, the end of the summer Olympic season begins a long four year hiatus until 2020. For others, the Olympics is just something that fills the void until football season begins. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, it cannot be denied that the Olympics always gives America a reason to be on the same team. It was nice to focus on the Olympics instead of who Donald Trump has recently offended or whether or not Hilary has turned over all her emails.

However, though the Olympic season has given us a break from vitriolic political discourse, the Olympics also tend to bring out the worst in all of us. It is innate within us to criticize and the Olympics give us a great opportunity as do all sporting events. We criticize athletes for making mistakes during competition and we criticize them for the way they handle themselves in-between competition (think of Gabby Douglass being criticized for “not smiling enough.”) Of course, this isn’t relegated to the Olympics alone. Football season is upon us and soon we will be calling the quarterback of our favorite team a “bonehead” for throwing it into double coverage. Athletes are public figures and public figures will always be scrutinized and placed under a microscope. When it comes to athletes, criticism is par for the course.

Where criticism becomes especially detrimental is when it spills over into our everyday lives, infects us, destroys our relationships with others, and breaks-down the household and people of God instead of building it up. Criticism of others intended to belittle or to hurt has no place in a healthy community. St. Paul understood this well. He begs us in Ephesians 4 to lead a life of humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love and to build up the body of Christ.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that referred to one of the political conventions as a “clown-car convention.” What I say to you the reader, and what I need reminding of myself as we focus again on the upcoming election, is that God loves Hilary. God loves Trump. And if he has any sense of humor at all, God loves clowns in cars. So let’s keep the negative criticisms to ourselves.