We live in a world that loves to criticize others but rarely self reflects in an honest manner. When it comes to women, we often target each other as well as fall victim to the vicious cycle of harshly criticizing even within the folds of the Christian congregation.
The practice of criticizing comes from a need to control the narrative. It is also a mindset of false pride and insecurity masked as the belief that one is superior. What many do not consider is that meddling in the affairs of others, as criticism is displayed or carried out, and harping on the faults of our family, friends and spouse can lead to what the bible refers to as sin. This sin destroys relationships. Not only can criticism destroy progress and fruitage of success, but it further serves to erode the happiness and peace that the Christian life offers each of us personally. It seems fair to say it breaks the command of loving others as we ought.
How Does the Critical Spirit Develop?
Perhaps you were on the receiving end of criticism from an early age, giving you a sense of lack of control. Perhaps you found that putting another person down while elevating your opinion of how things should be done, made you feel superior and you began to need to think of yourself that way to feel ‘okay’. Maybe you associate with those who are very critical of others and you follow that example rather than steer clear or try to encourage elimination of the habit.
Regardless of how the critical spirit developed, as a Christian we always have and are encouraged to put on the new personality. It is something we pray for and make necessary changes as they are identified. We also have holy spirit at our disposal to help us make necessary changes and end the addiction to control and “drama” that we create by putting our opinions, values and choices above the opinions, values and choices of others.
But how? How do we change our mindset and our behavior from the inside out. We focus on the advice of Phillipians 4:6-9. We request from the creator as David did to “create in me a clean heart. And a right spirit.” And we continually seek to hold back the tongue which can be like a flaming fire that devours both ourselves and others when we use it to speak judgment.
Dealing with the Impact of Criticism Day to Day
What about when we are on the receiving end of such criticism? Its good to keep in mind that the bible does not condone such use of the tongue by others. In fact, it encourages the use of speech to be positive, tactful and upbuilding.
For those on the receiving end of harsh criticism, it is best to let the person know how you feel and spend as much time outside of their association as possible. We never want to retaliate or model the behavior of those who have a pattern of doing just the opposite of what the bible encourages.
At the same time, you can be a force for good in the lives of other Christian women by offering positive counsel when asked. We may have a superior way of doing things, but it is not our duty to impose that on others. When asked however, younger women help us fulfill our need to share and teach. They in turn can see the benefit and our positive behavior.
Our view is to have speech and give counsel in a manner that first recognizes the worth of others. Just the opposite of what we may have been exposed to. In this manner, our sphere of influence may grow and provide calm and peace replacing pain and chaos.
Keys of Change to Remember
Those who have a critical spirit often use it on themselves as well. Remember that whatever our flaws, “God is greater than our hearts.” Speaking to ourselves with scripturally based, upbuilding words will express itself outwardly and more importantly change the way we view ourselves.
We can destroy our lives if we try to manage others with a critical spirit. Ask yourself, why you have the need to point out what you perceive to be flaws in others? Then, do the thirty-second rule and let no words be exchanged other than what is tactful, upbuilding and positive.
While we are recommended to teach one another and bear one another’s faults, the goal of criticism is usually not based on the foundation of wanting to see improvement in others. It is a habit born of a bitter spirit that lacks love.
Focus on improving yourself. Where do you find that you have the root of insecurity, pain, bitterness. Root out the tendency to want to project those painful feelings and view onto others. The more you practice the better and easier it will become.
Life is Easier When We Give Up the Need to Control
When we began our Christian walk many of us had only a glimpse of the happy and fulfilled life that God provides. Somewhere along the way, we may have lost that initial joy. Its okay! The Christian life and character is one that is built over time. During that time, our flaws begin to show the areas we need to improve.
Whether we dole harsh criticism out or were on the receiving end, the critical spirit may have deeply impacted us. We do not need to remain stuck in order to engage and change others. We can choose to disengage and build where the waters are spring-clean and offer positive nourishment.
The critical spirit expresses a lack of love towards oneself and others. Learning that God is the one who needs to be in control and submitting to His way allows us to extend to others the grace needed to get through life and pursue the abundant good Jesus and God have willed for us.