It sneaks up on us, taps us on the shoulder, one criticism leads to another and before we know it, we have developed a critical spirit. Fault finders are expert at finding fault with others and unfortunately, seldom find anything else. What is a critical spirit?
A critical spirit is an excessively negative attitude with harness in judging, says author June Hunt. The Bible says "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." Matthew 12:34-35
Hunt continues, "A person with a critical spirit gives unfair criticism by faultfinding, nit-picking, carping, quibbling, and complaining." However the opposite is true of a caring spirit. A caring spirit is helpful, thoughtful, and has a heart that wants to help, not judge. Every one of us have the need to have caring people in our lives, someone to be attentive to our dreams and disappointments, joys, sorrows and successes as well as failures. Those people in our lives should be cherished. One of the first Bible verses I taught Kristin was "The Lord is good. A stronghold in the day of trouble." Nahum 1:7. For some reason her voice always rose high as she said the word trouble.
We should rise up when those we know are in trouble. Sadly, whether out of a need to feel significant, though it be a warped significance, there are those who kick those who are in the throes of trouble. How do we distinquish between a critical spirit and a caring spirit. I know we all want to be in the latter category rather than the former. Hunt writes:
A critical spirit condemns the person as well as the action. A caring spirit condemns the action, not the person.
A critical spirit focuses on the faults of others. A caring spirit on self-examination.
A critical spirit ridicules others, but a caring spirit encourages others.
A critical spirit assumes the words without first hearing from the accused. But a caring spirit assumes the best while waiting to hear from the accused.
A critical spirit tears others down without seeing their unmet needs. A caring spirit builds others up according to them needs.
A critical spirit responds harshing when criticized or accused by others, but a caring spirit respons appreciatively without quarreling when others give advice, and seeks to correct personal misbehavior.
Lastly, a critical spirit lacks mercy toward others, but a caring spirit responds with mercy toward others.
A critical spirit usually comes from the home environment. We've all seen the page long list of what a child lives with is what he learns. Sadly, many times a child grows up and carries with them this spirit of criticism. It goes with one of my oft used statements of "hurting people hurt people." However, the root cause can come from other places too. People, in general have the inner needs of love, significance, and security. Criticizing someone else makes us feel a sense of significance-a sense of power, but for the moment.
June Hunt states that the wrong belief is "My sense of significance is enhanced when I point out the wrongs of others. Like riding a seesaw, the more I push others down with criticisms, the higher I rise above them, and the more powerful I feel. The fact that I am right justifies my criticism of others." However, the Bible says, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, therefore, the right belief is: When I am critical of others, I am only exposing my own sin. God thought I was significant enough to create me with His plan and purpose for me. Because Christ lives in me, continually extending His mercy toward me, I will reflect His mercy by caring for the hearts and lives of others rather than criticizing their attitudes or actions."
Maybe you sense a critical spirit in yourself and you no longer want to be a ditch dweller. slinging your derogatory mud. Begin today to climb out of that ditch with one kind word at a time. The Biblical principle I use in counseling is the "putting off/putting on" principle. That is when we must put off a behavior, we put on a good one.Put off speaking critically, and put on speaking kindly. I heard once a quote that said, "I'd rather trust and be fooled a thousand times than to misjudge one person."
One of my all time favorite quotes is by Mother Teresa and I wanted to always be reminded of the truth, so I bought a framed copy for my counseling office:
"People are often unreasonable and self-centered,
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous,
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It never was between you and them anyway." - Mother Teresa