CRITICISM AND A CRITICAL-SPIRIT
Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Exercising wisdom, when it comes to our communication with each other is extremely important; and if not exercised can lead to multiple problems, issues, anger, hurt feelings, tears and it will take much time to heal those wounds, if the wounds ever heal at all. A critical spirit in a man’s soul, manifested to others through the use of his tongue, can be a very destructive, debilitating, and discouraging tool used by Satan to bring down others and do much damage to them, to those around them, and the cause of Christ.
Fires don’t start out big and destructive. Fires start out small but have tremendous potential for destruction. So too are the words we say with our tongues. The tongue is a small part of our body, but it can cause tremendous havoc and problems for us and for the innocent people around us. (James 3:5-6 – Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.)
The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that we will eat the fruit of our tongue. That fruit could be sweet and good to the soul or it could be bitter and heart wrenching to our soul, but we will eventually eat the fruit of our tongue one way or the other. What kind of fruit is your tongue producing? Does your tongue, or your speech, or your words have a good reputation or a bad reputation? Is a critical spirit behind your words or is there an encouraging spirit behind your words?
The untamed tongue gives ample opportunity to sin. Solomon tells us in Proverbs, the more you talk the more chances you have to sin, (Proverbs 10:19 – In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.) but the less you talk the less chance you have to sin (Proverbs 13:3 -He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.) – So, watch your words, control the content of your speech, and watch for a critical spirit as you communicate with others.
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. We are not to let any “corrupt communication” proceed out of our mouth. So, what is considered corrupt communication? – Lies, criticism, gossiping, rude or crude words, filthy innuendo, etc. (I Corinthians 15:33 – Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.) Our communication is to be used to edify each other, (I Thessalonians 5:11 – Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do) and our communication should not spring forth from a critical and prideful spirit.
A wise person knows what is proper to say in the situation he finds himself in. (Proverbs 10:32a – The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable:) The wise use their knowledge in the right way to help those around them. They know the right advice to give at the right time. (Proverbs 15:2 – The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.) A wise person knows when to talk and when to keep his mouth shut. (Proverbs 29:11 – A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.) The wise speak helpful words and encouraging words. They speak words that are needed and useful to those around them. (Proverbs 12:18 – There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.)
WHAT WE SHOULD NOT HAVE IS A CRITICAL, COMPLAINING SPIRIT
Criticism is the act of criticizing, it is to judge as a critic, or to find fault: to blame or condemn. Tearing down and/or criticizing fellow believers can cause a stumbling block and damage to one’s faith. We tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. We should judge ourselves and seek to align ourselves with God’s Word. A critical-spirit is having an attitude of fault finding and criticism. Those with critical-spirits tend to seek opportunities to tear down others instead of building them up. Having a critical-spirit one will tend to dwell on the negative and look for the flaws when we should be looking for the positive qualities in people and look to build them up while gently teaching them and guiding them in a direction away from their flaws.
Overtime, being critical prevents one from seeing and appreciating or even enjoying their own Christian walk. A critical person is walking in the flesh, his sin nature, and not the spirit. The opposite of having a critical-spirit is having a godly-spirit, a feeling of optimism and hope because they know they serve a good and gracious God. Apart from Christ and having a solid relationship with Him, the critical person has no real basis for hope. Sometimes trying to find fault in others helps the critical person to deal with their own shortcomings. Criticism can become a reaction of disappointment because unrealistic expectations have not been met. Having a critical-spirit is wrong for a Christian. A critical-spirit affects your entire worldview, you react to faults more than you react to blessings, you criticize when you should encourage, you complain when you should instruct, you sneer when you should minister, you make fun of when you should support, you seek to tear down, when you should be striving to build up, you talk behind someone’s back when you should seek to come along side and offer help. This is the wrong way to behave as Christians. God’s Word teaches us to bear one another’s burdens and to show compassion. We must be careful not to be used as a tool of the devil to discourage or tear down others through criticism. If you are having an issue with someone, it is always better to talk with God about them, then to talk with others about them (Ephesians 4:37 – Neither give place to the devil.) We as Christians need to be encouragers, we need to be building each other up, not tearing each other down. (James 4:6 – But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.) We should ask God to reveal any areas in our life where a critical-spirit may be and seek to rid ourselves of that as quickly as possible (Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.)
SOME SUGGESTED CHANGES IN A CRITICAL PERSON AND FOR A CRITICAL-SPIRIT
First, we simply must have our spiritual eyes opened to see two truths: the heinous depth of our own sin, and the amazing grace of God’s love toward us in Christ. Spiritual sight here is not something we can will. God must give it. (James 4:8-9 – Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.)
Second, we must be deeply convinced that we can never know with certainty another person’s motives. Yes, we can see actions, and sinful actions usually must be confronted. But we must catch ourselves when we hurriedly move to open criticism of actions and of intents of performance. Yes, evaluation is often needed, but it needs to be done in the right time, the right way and in the right spirit, and it must never be done with a critical-spirit. There are so many factors beyond our knowledge that go into another’s actions. Only God sees the heart, and only His judgment will be 100 percent accurate and fair (I Samuel 16:7).
Third, when we’re bothered by another’s actions, we must pray—for both the person and our response to them, instantly and fervently. We must seek God’s face first, poor out our heart to God first, poor out our frustrations to Him. We must not spew forth sinful criticisms of others, but we must always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Fourth, we must learn to be diplomatic and direct in confronting people one-on-one. No fake smiles where we try to call darkness ‘light.’ No repression of negative feelings, but instead, direct, tactful communication. The goal here is not to blast people or tell of all their hidden character flaws; the goal is God’s glory and the reconciliation of broken relationships. This is best done in a one on one situation, or with one other person acting as a witness. I have always been taught by teachers, by college professors, by seminar teachers, by preachers, by leaders of all stripes, it is best to criticize or correct when needed in private and to praise in public; and I have found over the many years in my life when I have been tasked with leading others, that this principle has worked the best (Matthew 18:15–19; Galatians 6:1–2).
IN CONCLUSION: Praying, proclaiming the Word, witnessing, and sharing burdens—these are four wonderful ministries of speech. How much better it is to be involved in these ministries than to be using our tongues for gossip, malicious criticism, and other sinful purposes. Let’s make David’s prayer our prayer: “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3). Matthew Poole made this comment of Psalm 141:3 “That I may not through mine own infirmity, and the great provocations of mine enemies, break forth into any unadvised speeches, or any expressions of impatience, or distrust, or envy, or malice”. We must guard our speech, make sure it is seasoned with love, with patience, with encouragement and not infested with a discouraging and sinful critical-spirit.