Last night was a real eye-opener for me. I realized that I have a critical spirit. And the more that I thought about this, the more burdened I became. As I have gone over my conversations, thoughts and attitudes I have come to see clearly so many sins that have piled up and taken root in my heart. I want to examine what it means to have a critical spirit, then dive into how we remove and replace those sinful characteristics.
A critical spirit shows up in many ways, all of which act out of our sinful nature. To be critical is to think of ourselves as better than others. We have a sense of self-righteousness. We are never wrong, and no one will ever measure up to our standards. We always know the right way to do something, and are quick to offer our opinion. We develop a “holier-than-thou” attitude. All of this comes from a spirit of pride that can not see any wrong in ourselves. Remember the verse in Matthew 7:3 says “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” This means we need to examine our own hearts, motives, words, and attitudes instead of being critical and judgmental of others. Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” There is only one judge and His name is Jesus Christ. Only Christ can see into the heart and motives of another person. We have no idea where they are coming from or what their motives are in doing something.
A critical spirit is one that is never satisfied. This manifests itself in the form of complaining. The Bible has much to say about complaining, like in the story of the Israelites for example. The trip from Egypt to the Promised Land was supposed to only take a short amount of time. I have heard many different accounts, but the general time-frame should have been around 11 days. The main reason they wandered aimlessly in the desert was because of their disobedience. And one of the main ways they disobeyed was through complaining. They were never satisfied. They wanted to go back to Egypt where there was good food to eat, plenty of water to drink, they didn’t have to walk miles and miles, and they had their homes to rest in at night. Their distrust in God came out in their words. Their distrust in Moses to lead them resulted in a golden calf that they worshiped. Their complaints kept them in the same place much longer than necessary. Have you heard the phrase “to complain is to remain, but to praise is to raise”? This is so true. God wants us to be continually looking for ways to give thanks and to praise Him. We may not always like our circumstances, but we can always find at least one thing to be grateful for. Let’s focus on that and stop belly-aching.
Have you ever felt jealous and entitled to something? That’s a form of a critical spirit. What about bitterness? Oh, that’s a big one! Bitterness is nasty. Its roots go way down deep. What comes out of our hearts when we are bitter is not pretty. And a lot of the time we are not even aware of how much bitterness we have until we explode all over someone. Other forms of a critical spirit are pride, hypocrisy, gossip, and slander. Our words tell us a lot about what is going on in our hearts. The Bible tells us that “for whatever is in your heart determines what you say”, Matthew 12:34. What is planted in your heart is sure to come out of your mouth. Trust me. This happened to me and it was not pretty. I was so shocked that I have spent the day diving deep into what causes a critical spirit and am determined to eradicate this once and for all!
So what are we to do to replace these sinful habits? For starters we must get into God’s word. Searching the scriptures for what He has to say about a critical spirit is a good place to start. Read Matthew 7:1-5 and carefully consider where you may be acting out of judgment. Examine your own heart for sin instead of focusing on the sins of others. We must come to a place where we are hating the sin in our own lives so much that we can no longer allow it to remain. Then we will be able to effectively pray for others to have open eyes to their sin and to restore themselves to a right relationship with God. Our focus should always be here instead of negatively thinking about what someone said or did. Turn it over to God and let Him handle it. Our desire should be for peaceful relationships and unity among each other. We are to approach others with a sincere love for them that Christ has. But we can only do this once our own hearts are clean and we are living with a whole-hearted devotion to God.
After we have dealt with the bitterness, we must learn to forgive. This is not always easy, but absolutely necessary. It is vitally important for our relationship with God. The Bible clearly says that God will not hear our prayers when we are harboring sin in our hearts. Psalm 66:18 says “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” To remain in a right relationship with God we must come to Him with clean hands and a clean heart. Confession is a must. Thankfully He always welcomes us back into His presence.
Contentment is something that we develop against a critical spirit. Instead of striving for a situation to change, we can consider that there may be a blessing of growing closer to God in the midst of the trial. Or instead of disagreeing immediately with someone, pray for God to show you how to be supportive.
Other ways that are the opposite of a critical spirit are showing appreciation, kindness, calmness, being gentle and sweet, or just being silent. Not gossiping and slandering is huge is eradicating an oppositional spirit.
I hope this helps you to get a handle on overcoming a critical, negative spirit. For more information, I suggest watching April Cassidy. She is the Peaceful Wife and has great insight on this topic.