Overcoming a Critical Spirit

October 16, 2014

Shannon Kay McCoy

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Shannon Kay McCoy

Overcoming a Critical Spirit

Do you criticize and pass judgment on others? Do you find yourself with a negative disposition, always finding fault with something or someone? Is it difficult for you to see the positive in a person or a situation because the negative is so glaring in your eye? Are you compelled to give your critical point of view for the good of all mankind?

If you answered yes to one of these questions, then you have a critical spirit and you are in danger. Not getting hit-by-a-truck-kind-of-danger, but an even more serious kind—and that is spiritual danger. A critical spirit is from the dark side. It is meant to hurt and destroy its object.

A critical spirit is a negative attitude of the heart that seeks to condemn, tear down, and destroy with words. In contrast, constructive criticism involves opinions that are meant to build up. A critical spirit creates blind spots in a person’s heart and mind causing them to believe they are being constructive. In reality, it is characterized as the ungodly.

4 Types of Critical Spirits

1. Gossiper

A gossiper is one who reveals secrets going about as a talebearer or scandal-monger. She has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to others with sinful motives without their knowledge or approval. Gossipers attempt to make themselves significant to the hearer by appearing to be the source of all knowledge.

The Bible’s Perspective

1 Timothy 5:13—“At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.”

Proverbs 11:13—“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”

Proverbs 20:19—“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.”

2. Slanderer

A slanderer is a person who makes false statements in order to damage a person’s reputation. She does not care about the truth or correcting an error. A slanderer creates error in order to inflict harm.

The Bible’s Perspective

Proverbs 10:18—“He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool.”

Proverbs 16:28—“A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

1 Peter 2:1—“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”

3. Judgmentalism

A judgmental person has an excessively critical point of view, characterized by a tendency to judge harshly. She lacks empathy for others’ viewpoint because she believes her point of view is the right one. She believes she has the ability to know others’ motives. She has the amazing skill to point out others’ mistakes, while minimizing her own.

The Bible’s Perspective

Matthew 7:1-2—“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

James 2:13—“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

4. Complainer

A complainer is a person who is habitually negative about others and circumstances of life. They are characterized by discontentment and ingratitude.

The Bible’s Perspective

James 5:9—“Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”

Philippians 2:14—“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

The Motives Behind a Critical Spirit

A critical spirit comes from within the heart of a person. Mark 7 tells us that sins such as evil thoughts, coveting, deceit, envy, and slander proceed from within a person. There are several factors that contribute to the development of a critical spirit.

1. Self-Factor

This includes jealousy or envy, vengeance, anger, hatred, and holding grudges for the purpose of personal gain by destroying the other person.

2. Fear-Factor

This involves feeling threatened by someone or feeling anxiety toward someone which produces a critical spirit as a way of self-protection.

3. Control-Factor

This is feeling out of control and using manipulation and shaming someone in order to gain control.

The Effects of a Critical Spirit

The effects of a critical spirit are damaging. In Matthew 22:37 and 39, God commands us to love Him with all of our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our souls and to love our neighbor as we already love ourselves. Harboring a critical disposition closes off our hearts, minds and souls to loving God in anyway. Our fellowship with the Lord is hindered. We will stop spending time with Him in reading the Bible and praying. We will avoid seeking wisdom from the Lord. As a result, our spiritual life will be put on the shelf.

A critical spirit displeases God and causes Him to judge that sin. Luke 6:37 says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” God warns us in Matthew 7:2 that we will be judge the same way we judge others.

A critical spirit in action is the opposite of loving your neighbor as yourself. Relationships are broken when there’s gossip, slander, judgment and slander. When we are critical toward others, we put ourselves in an authoritative position over them. This isolates a critical person from fellowship with others. People tend to separate themselves from harsh and critical authority.

Overcoming a Critical Spirit

Overcoming a critical spirit can be difficult because it develops into a life-dominating sin. It becomes a way of life. The way to rid ourselves of a critical heart is to put on love instead of hate, to build up instead of tearing down and to give grace instead of grief.

Love Instead of Hate

As stated before, God commands us to love Him and to love others. The simplest way to view this is to stop feeding the flesh and start feeding the spirit. The Bible is chalked full of all things we are to put off and all things we are to put on. 1 Peter 2 tells us to put off malice, envy and slander and to pursue the pure milk of the word. We are to stop returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but to give a blessing instead (1 Peter 3:9).

Building Up Instead of Tearing Down

A critical spirit naturally tears down, but as believers, we are called to edify others. In Romans, the apostle Paul instructs us on how to build up others. We are to focus on pleasing our neighbor (15:2) and pursuing things which make for peace (14:19). A person with a critical spirit must be renewed in the spirit of her mind as she seeks to do all things for edification (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Giving Grace Instead of Giving Grief

As believers, our words and our lives are to reflect God’s grace. We are to give grace to others instead of the grief that comes from a critical spirit. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Our words are to be encouraging, uplifting and instructive even when it is corrective. We are to be “kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Christians have no business possessing a critical spirit. We have not been given authority over the hearts of others. We know we have overcome a critical spirit when we are characterized by a forgiving spirit because we have been forgiven by God.

Join the Conversation

Which of these principles about a critical spirit stand out to you as most important?


6 thoughts on “Overcoming a Critical Spirit

  1. This hits so close to home. So what do you do when you have been continually wounded by the critical spirit of others, particularly parents? Self protection? Keep distance? It is so hurtful and manipulative but they don’t see it themselves. How does one live rightly around this type? I fear this is a contagious disease prone to propagation from generation to generation. Lord, have mercy.

  2. Thanks for reading the post Mary! This one focuses on the one who is being critical. I should write a follow-up for those who are the objects of such abuse. I’ll get to working on that one. Blessings to you! Shannon McCoy

  3. This blog was meant for me this morning! I love it when God does that — I think?! Although I say this cautiously, God has gifted me with a discerning mind. I CAN sense motives behind what people do on occasion. Sometimes, my family is amazed by what I can sense in others. And, of course, my husband is most easily detected, because I know Him best. He has learned a technique of cleverly taking a jab at people, but having it remain “under the surface.” It is a stress-reliever for him — to know that he got his point across, but kept his reputation in tact — with the ability to deny what he said as — “just joking” or a misunderstanding of what he meant. When I am the recipient on occasion, it can be a hurtful blow from someone who loves me. Controlling my critical spirit when I see this kind of behavior is difficult, but confrontation in the matter brings — “You must have misunderstood me.” After seeing it for so many years, I really don’t think it’s a matter of misunderstanding — when he has — on rare occasion — admitted to it. Overlooking this and not having a critical spirit toward an ongoing issue is difficult!! I’ll be anxious to see your post that you suggested to Mary Claire! This one has really given me food for thought. Thanks!!

  4. Actually, you fear rightly…you usually end up with the same kind of spirit…as they say, you come by it “honestly”. Of course, as recipients of “original sin” we all come by all of our fallen nature “honestly”. In my case, I just thought that was the way the world was, having had nothing else but that critical spirit as an example. It took the grace of God and experiencing true love in Jesus Christ to break through my world view and show me that is not the case. Now, it is the same grace that allows me to walk in increasing freedom from its many tentacled affects.

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