(To read the prior parts to this series, please see here.) A short time ago while Teri and I were on our morning walk, she said, “I’m feeling like you have a critical spirit toward me lately. Is that true?” I didn’t enjoy hearing her question because that told me she was not feeling loved. Even worse, she was sensing a negative, critical spirit on my part.
“No, I don’t think so,” I responded, and the conversation drifted onto other things.
I’m not sure of the exact chain of events, but over the next few days the Lord started speaking to my heart. He convicted me of times when I had allowed negative, judgmental thoughts in my mind about Teri. Yes, I finally had to admit it; I did have a critical spirit toward her!
“Mr. Webster” defines critical as “inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably.” Criticize “implies finding fault especially with methods or policies or intentions.” It was true. I was looking at Teri with the predisposition of finding fault. I was allowing myself to criticize certain actions and behaviors of hers in my mind. When I was looking at what Teri did through a magnifying glass, was she able to do anything to my satisfaction? Was she hearing praise and gratefulness for all she did in our home? Clearly not!
Perhaps some might wonder what is wrong with having a judgmental spirit, as long as the negative thoughts aren’t expressed. If you are going to be critical, might it not be acceptable to do it secretly? I suppose in a similar way we might justify being angry on the inside or having secret lustful thoughts, as long as we don’t outwardly show them. The problem is that we can’t be one thing on the inside and another on the outside. We truly are what we are in our hearts. If we lust in our hearts, we are adulterers. If we are angry in our hearts, we are angry men. If we are critical in our hearts, we are critical people. “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee” (Proverbs 23:7).
Just like Teri noticed something was wrong, the person our judgmental spirit is directed at will not feel loved. It poisons our thoughts about them. It will affect our words, actions, and attitudes towards them. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:10-12). What is in our heart directs our speech. “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34).
Harboring secret, negative thoughts will damage a husband’s love for his wife. If you have been struggling with loving your wife deeply from your heart, evaluate whether you have a critical spirit. A judgmental spirit will also put up a barrier between you and your child. As loving as we may try to be to them, our spirit will be shouting even louder that we don’t accept them the way they are, we aren’t happy with them, and they’d better change.
Think of a possession that you have that means a lot to you. It very likely isn’t perfect, as few things are. However, for some reason or other, you really like it. Maybe it is your car since men often have some attachment to their vehicles. When you think of it, why is it pleasing to you? What aspects of it come to mind? When you are thinking pleasant thoughts about it, are you thinking about anything negative concerning it?
For example, I spend a great deal of time with my computer every day. I appreciate it, and I am very pleased with it. I seldom think about its negative aspects. It is fairly slow by today’s standards because it is only 450 MHz. It doesn’t have a large hard disk so I have to be reasonably careful with what I store on it. The display has a very large footprint and takes up a great deal of desk space as opposed to the sleek new flat panel displays that are out. It’s in my office in the basement where I don’t have any windows, and it gets quite stuffy in there with the door closed.
Now, what if I started thinking about how slow my computer is, the small hard disk, the clunky display, and how stuffy it is in my office? Would I still have pleasant feelings toward that computer? Of course not! That is the way with anything we allow ourselves to think negatively about. Concentrating on what is not pleasing will erode positive feelings.
We may think we are doing this in secret, but just like hidden anger or lust, it always shows. It comes across loud and clear, as I realized when the spirit of love that Teri normally felt was being dissolved away.
So what do we do if we have a judgmental spirit? How can we stop it? I will share what I did to be free from it. First, I was convicted that it was sin. I am to love and cherish Teri, to die for her if need be (Ephesians 5:25). I am not to sit in continual judgment of her. I confessed this to my Lord Jesus and asked His forgiveness. Next, I went to Teri and confessed that she was right and asked her forgiveness. Then, I asked the Lord to convict me of judgmental thoughts when I was allowing them into my mind. I also asked that He might give me an attitude of gratefulness. I purposed to cast every negative thought down. Not only has Teri not had a husband who is looking at her with faultfinding eyes lately, but she now has a husband who has found a new sense of appreciation for her.
A critical spirit is a cancer that will destroy your ability to delight in the one it is focused on. It isn’t healthy, and it certainly isn’t enjoyable. Do you want to rejoice in the wife of your youth? Purpose to love her and not judge her. What if instead of loving me, Teri were to concentrate on my faults? Now that is a scary thought!