A Critical Spirit Can Cripple Spiritual Life

11.2.14Critical thinking is a gift. To be able to discern the facts of a matter and be able to arrive at solid conclusions is a necessary ability in every field.

That is different from a critical spirit.

A harsh and acidic spirit can permeate your relationships at home, church, neighborhood, marketplace and even your career. I should know.

It comes so natural. The words fly out of my mouth so effortlessly. Criticism can take so many forms, even hiding beneath the surface of humor. Sarcasm seeps out unexpectedly. Even unspoken criticism can influence our compassion and support of others. This critical spirit has crippled my spiritual life over the years in so many ways.

As I look back over the past I recognize … and repent of … this attitude.

– A harsh critical spirit kept me from making friends with believers from other faith families, robbing me of rich relationships that could have helped me.

– A harsh critical spirit made me skeptical of the spiritual experiences of other people, seeking to explain them away with logic and doubt.

– A harsh critical spirit produced a self-assured arrogance that kept me from serving others as I should have, justifying myself along the way.

– A harsh critical spirit was often hidden from others, because I recognized that this was not the manner of Jesus.

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” ~Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

We have to get this out in the open, because this critical attitude is destroying relationships and keeping individuals from growing in the likeness of the Master. If you struggle with this, I encourage you to begin to chip away at it until you conquer it.

– Yield Your Heart. Ask God to develop the Fruit of His Spirit in your heart, not just in your life (Galatians 5:22). These qualities should ooze from your heart and permeate your system because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. If you are not willing to yield to Him, these qualities will never become a part of who you really are.

– Correct Your Thoughts. We can’t always help what we think, but we can confront the bitterness residing in our minds. When you sense you have stepped from discernment into arrogance, remind yourself of the thoughts you should be thinking. Self-correction is difficult but a step towards repentance.

– Speak Better Words. You can control what you say. Take a moment before lashing out with harsh words. Can you find a way to say it better? Is it crucial that you say anything at all?

– Try to Understand. This may not solve everything, but try to understand the person whom you seek to criticize. The old saying about walking a mile in their shoes is appropriate. Sometimes if we know more about the person’s motives, strengths, weaknesses, goals … we can understand what they are trying to do. Then maybe you could help someone instead of standing by.

– Check Your Own Life. Critics have time to criticize because they are not busy doing something for someone else. In the New Testament you see crowds of people following Jesus, taunting him, asking him inane questions trying to trip him up. Why weren’t these people busy doing something productive? If I have time to stand above someone and criticize them, I’m not doing my part.

I think I have come a long way in my attitude toward others. I have a long way to go. I appeal to God to give me a heart like Jesus. But looking back I can see how far I’ve come. I can see from this perspective how a harsh and critical spirit in my earlier years crippled my spiritual life. If I let it, that could happen today.

“Once in a golden hour
I cast to earth a seed.
Up there came a flower,
The people said, a weed.”
― Alfred Tennyson, The Complete Works of Alfred Tennyson

Let’s help each other overcome this attitude that looks a lot more like The Accuser than The Savior. What other ideas do you have for overcoming a harsh, critical spirit?

Thanks for reading. JD

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