A Critical Spirit – Part 3

A critical spirit is not one that a Christian mom wants to characterize her heart or her words. That groundwork was laid in the first article of this series. Last month we started evaluating, in a practical sense, how to be a mother who brings her children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord without criticizing them. Here is a link to that article.

As we move into the spiritual issues behind criticism, let’s begin by listening to our hearts, our emotions, our motives, and our words when we have that critical spirit toward our children. We want to discover what is at the root of the criticism. I can give you a few thoughts, and you will likely have some of your own.

It seems to me that the criticism often stems from a selfish focus. The thing I am criticizing in my child causes an imposition on my time, my emotions, or my energy. It may also reflect back to me my own failings or character deficiencies and therefore be even more undesirable to me in my child.

Let’s reflect on the examples from last month starting with the child who doesn’t do his chore. In the child’s failure to take out the trash, I remember my wrong thoughts when I was faced with that situation in the past. First I was frustrated because as I went to put something into the trash, it was overflowing. That in itself was an inconvenience. Then, I needed to find the child who should have taken out the trash. Usually I had plenty of other things to do, so my time was impacted. Not only did I have to get the child to do his job, but I also had to determine or deliver a consequence for not accomplishing work that was assigned to him. This impacted my emotional energy. If I had invested effort into helping my child with this problem in the past, there might be bitterness in my heart toward that child because of lack of progress.

What about the example of two children quarreling over a toy? Again we can see it takes Mom’s time to deal with the situation. It also impacts her emotions, and bitterness could be there as well, rooted in the consistency of sibling squabbles as the problems continue.

Perhaps the critical words come during times when Mom is feeling stressed, or she is tired from being up with a nursing baby or sick children. These evaluations and the information gathered from them are important in order to effect change.

I believe the key to becoming an encouraging, admonishing mom from a critical one is found in this verse: “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26). Wisdom and kindness—they are certainly in our hearts and, for most of us, would characterize our desire for our interactions with our children, even when correcting them. How do we move toward the goal?

Wisdom will help us with wrong heart attitudes. In addition, it will allow us to direct our children in positive ways. That wisdom grows from our relationship with the One Who is wisdom personified, Jesus Christ. We must have His grace, His mercy, and His strength. That means lifting our hearts in prayer and also spending time with Him in His Word each day so that He can transform those areas of our lives that aren’t pleasing to Him and prepare us for our interactions with our children.

If you have discerned that selfishness is at the root of your critical words, then as you are reading Scripture, you will discover verses that have to do with self-denial and servanthood, such as the following:

“And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” (Mark 10:44)

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

When a situation comes up where the selfishness wants to manifest itself, you will immediately begin to pray, asking the Lord for His strength and help. Then you can do as 2 Corinthians 10:5 says and take your thoughts captive: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

The process might sound like this. “Lord Jesus, You know I don’t want to give up what I had planned to do with this time to work with my children and help them learn to be kind to each other. However, I love those children more than anything, and I desire that they would become loving to each other. Thank You for calling me first to serve You and then to serve them. While to me it feels like self-denial to set aside what I had planned to do right now, taking time to instruct and correct them is really no self-denial at all. Would You give me Your patient, wise, and kind spirit as I now work with them?”

While this may seem simplistic, I encourage you to make yourself take time to pray like this. It allows you to move away from your selfish thoughts and attitudes, to appropriate God’s power, and to put right thoughts into your mind.

“The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so” (Proverbs 15:7). “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness” (Proverbs 15:2). When you have cultivated that relationship with Jesus Christ and have been learning from Him, wise words will first come to your heart and then from your mouth. However, without His wisdom, you will likely be left feeling like the fool from these verses because of the critical words characterizing your interactions with your children.

I encourage you to memorize Scripture if you are struggling with a critical attitude toward your children. Having memorized Scripture will also allow you to quickly give your children a biblical reason to eliminate negative behavior and to encourage positive behavior. Here are links to a series of Mom’s Corners about memorizing Scripture.

Perhaps you will tell me that it is too difficult to memorize Scripture or that you don’t know what verse to use at the particular moment. Consider this: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). If you struggle with those problems, the Lord has a solution. Ask Him for wisdom. He can help you memorize, and He can bring to mind the appropriate verses.

“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands” (Proverbs 14:1). I want to be a wise woman whom the Lord can use to build my house. Do you? If so, I encourage you to decide today to spend time in the Word every day—time that will help you grow away from a critical spirit and allow you to disperse wise words to your children. Repent of a critical spirit and critical words, and ask the Lord for His strength and wisdom to help you in your weakness. We have gotten started in our quest to discover how we can raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord without being critical of them. Next month we will dig deeper.