We often hear criticism spoken of as one of the evils of which we should beware, lest in some idle moment we indulge in it, but before we reach the conclusion that criticism is necessarily evil, let us inquire more deeply into its province and meaning. Criticism is defined by Webster first, as the art of judging with knowledge and propriety of the beauties and faults of a literary performance or production in the fine arts; second, the act of criticizing, or a critical observation, or a detailed examination and review, and finally it is defined as censure. It is therefore only in its final definition that criticism is given the meaning of censure, condemnation, or unfavorable judgment. Even in this sense it is worth while to remember that the passing of unfavorable judgment may be a right action. The criterion is the justice and rightness of the censure or condemnation. We are bidden by the Master to "judge righteous judgment." In the Manual of The Mother Church (Article VIII, Sect. 1) we read: "The members of this church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously." So it is not a question of criticizing or judging, but of doing these things justly and rightly.
Criticism rightly exercised is a good thing. It is necessary to progress. It is the inevitable result of mental activity; the concomitant of thought as applied to things. One might just as well tell a man to stop thinking as to stop criticizing. The human mind cannot apprehend an idea without passing judgment upon it. Everything which comes into the realm of consciousness must and does pass before the judgment-seat of the human mind. There it will be measured according to the perfection of our ideals, according to the measure of our understanding of good. If we have no knowledge of good, we have no means of judging between the good and the bad. It is our lack of perfect understanding which betrays us into false judgments. If we were to realize that the human mind is fallible, we would see that it is impossible for it to pass infallible judgment. We would thus learn that there is but one absolutely just and infallible judge, namely, God, the infinite Mind. With an awakening to this idea we ought to grow more modest and careful in our criticism.
It cannot, however, be rightly said that God passes judgment in the sense that we understand criticism. Since there is no evil in divine consciousness, God having made all things perfect, there is nothing in His universe to criticize. Criticism pertains only to the realm of human experience and thought. All criticism implies imperfection, and imperfection is unreal to Truth; hence the passing of a criticism is a recognition of unreality. If we fail to deny this unreality, our criticism has been the means of creating in our thought an evil entity. The only way this belief can be destroyed is to see the reality or the perfection of all of God's ideas, and this reveals the truth about the thing or person criticized. This process is really a nullification of the original criticism. The truth about the thing criticized acts as a law of annihilation both of the criticism and the error criticized. It is our failure to deny the reality of the faults or defects raised in our consciousness by our criticisms, which constitutes one of the bad features of the practise of criticism. It is easy to see that even if our criticisms were just from a material view-point, it would nevertheless be necessary for us to deny the reality of the error.