The Anatomy of a Critical Spirit

As a band and tech crew, we’ve been talking about criticism in our last several rehearsal devos. As creatives, at times we simply don’t know how to give proper constructive criticism, nor do we know how to receive it. We also tow the line on be constructively critical and having an all-out critical spirit. There is a difference, and that’s what we’ve been exploring together. I think this applies to everyone, so I’ve decided to share it with you all.

Ask yourself these questions:

Have you ever left a worship service and said to yourself, “Man, that pastor didn’t know what in the world he was talking about!”? Or how about this: “That music was way too loud, and that guitarist just thought he was all that!”?

Have you ever left a party or a one-on-one meeting with someone and said to yourself, “I can’t believe she was such a bad listener. She is just so full of herself.”

The list could go on and on.

Sometimes this negativity makes its way to our lips and sometimes it stays in our hearts, but regardless, the root sin is the same.

There is something extremely damaging about a critical spirit. Overtime, when left unchecked, it prevents us from seeing what is truly good and miraculous in this world. We lose sight of what God is actively doing.

The critical person comes to expect, even hope (ouch), that everything will have something wrong with it so they can point it out. Their very identity actually begins to be marked by this need for negativity.

People who constantly walk in a critical spirit, however, aren’t just negatively effecting themselves, but they hurt those around them as well. How do you feel when you’re around people who are consistently negative? It drains the life out of you, right? What if you’re the one draining others with your negativity? It’s just something to consider in your own life.

What is at the root of a critical spirit?

First, the critical person is, most likely, walking in the flesh and not the Spirit. Rather than asking Jesus about His perspective, they are leaning on their own perspective to make determinations and judgments about things. A person who walks in the Spirit is filled with hope, while a person walking in their own strength often wallows in despair.

Second, when you encounter people who are super critical, you can be fairly sure that they feel pretty rotten about themselves. Hurting people hurt people. Pointing out others’ weaknesses serves as a pseudo-salve to their own pain. It’s common knowledge that it’s the things that we criticize in others that are usually the things we struggle with deep inside our own hearts, right? I know that’s been the case for me in my own life.

Third, you can rest assured that a critical person has been shown very little grace in his/her own life. Grace is not something that comes easy to us in our culture especially. We’ve been brought up seeing the consequences and penalties of our actions as unavoidable. It’s hard to wrap our minds around something as miraculous as grace. I would say that the critical person needs to receive the most grace from you, if you’re in a relationship with them. Just keep pouring it out.

What is the key to “fixing” a critical spirit?

For a good portion of my life, I thought the key was to simply analyze things less. I found myself envying those people who were just go-with-the-flow, happy-go-lucky, etc. I found myself just pushing down all negative thinking and trying to only notice good things in people. Exchanging dull gray sunglasses for rose-colored glasses really isn’t the solution. Fake smiles, repressed anger, and a ton of “Praise the Lords” don’t build the kingdom of God. Sin needs to be confronted, no doubt.

On the positive side, critical people are typically very discerning, which is a gift!

So here are 5 things the Critical Person can work on:

1. We need to have our spiritual eyes opened to see 2 truths: the heinousness of our own sin and the miraculous grace given to us through Jesus. Viewing ourselves soberly, like Pastor Mark talked about Sunday helps with this. (Remember that pride comes in various forms: 1. In seeing ourselves more highly than we ought, and 2. in seeing ourselves more lowly than we ought in order to get people to praise us for various things. Both of theses issues stem from the same problem…the sin of pride).  (Romans 12:3)

2. We must understand that we can never truly know another’s motives. We must catch ourselves when we (often unconsciously) make that jump from “He/she did this” to “He/she is obviously acting from pride, envy, deceit, insecurity, etc”. Only God truly sees the heart, so His judgment is always 100% accurate.

3. When we are bothered by another’s actions, we must pray, both for the person and our response to them. Prayer is so often underrated in our society, but it really goes a long way in changing our own hearts towards people. Remember that you can’t really pray for someone and still hate them. God has this funny way of showing us our own crap in order to distribute grace to others more effectively.

4. We must learn how to appropriately confront people one-on-one. This is a hard one, especially for those of us who grew up in the south, where it is much easier to talk about someone behind their backs than actually confront people when an issue arises. The goal in one-on-one interaction here is not to blast people or somehow think we’re entitled to bring to light all of another’s hidden character flaws. On the contrary, the goal is grace and the reconciliation of broken relationships.

5. We must learn to be encouragers, genuinely. No fake stuff, but real, loving, sincere encouragers. We have to grasp the mindset that our goal is to facilitate people becoming who they are called to be in Christ. We don’t act as a stumbling block, but rather an stepping stone. Always…even if that means that we aren’t in the spotlight, that we have less of a role to play here or there.

Our mission statement at Hope Fellowship says: We are about people becoming and belonging through loving God, loving people, and making disciples. One very clear element of this statement is that we are all about relationships. It’s very easy to get caught in this trap of seeing a particular goal and trying to get there no matter what the fall-out. That’s not who we are at Hope, and that not who we should be as believers. We do everything we do with the intentions of building people up, drawing them closer to Jesus, and facilitating amazing relationships.

You never sacrifice relationship for the right to be right!

One thought on “The Anatomy of a Critical Spirit

  1. Yes, yes, yes!! This is something I need to read every day. Probably multiple times a day. How easy it is for us to simply carry around a wheelbarrow full of negativity than to turn an objective eye back on ourselves. I don’t think we can be reminded enough.


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