Have you been evaluating your words lately to determine if they are critical or edifying? Here is the link to the previous four articles in this series on a critical spirit.
As we look at a critical spirit toward others, let us use this verse as the basis. “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” (Ephesians 4:29).
I remember a time a while ago in our family when the Lord was convicting us about having critical spirits toward each other and toward those outside our family. We had observed how much that critical spirit had infiltrated our daily conversations, hurt our family relationships, and colored our views of others. We challenged ourselves not to speak critical words but edifying ones.
The path away from a critical spirit began in our hearts. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). It was clear that we needed to cast the beam of criticism out of our own eyes because our criticism seldom, if ever, was said in order to help another with a mote that was in their eye. For those inside our family that we were criticizing, we were usually just venting the displeasure of a discontent, judgmental heart. With those outside the family, we found that we wouldn’t have said to them what we were saying to each other, so it was obvious we weren’t trying to help them.
These verses help us see the damage that a critical spirit will cause. “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Galatians 5:15). “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26).
Here is a verse that directed us in evaluating what was being said to determine whether it was edifying. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). This verse also affirmed that the critical spirit started in the heart with what we were thinking. If we think about what Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about, it is more likely that those will be the words that come from our mouths—edifying words. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45).
If you work your way through the process of moving from critical words to edifying ones, with what will you replace the critical thoughts that drive the critical words? Here are three keys that I could give you: praise, gratitude, and contentment.
Rather than thinking negative thoughts about others, praise the Lord. “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1). Instead of letting yourself dwell on what you don’t like about another, be grateful for them. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4). If there are legitimate concerns regarding the other person, turn your heart to praying for them rather than criticizing. Finally, learn to be content as Paul learned to be content, “. . . for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
Here are a couple of verses that you could hold up against the words that you are speaking. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). “The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth” (Proverbs 10:20). Does what you are saying sound and feel like apples of gold in pictures of silver or like choice silver? Would the person hearing them agree?
The critical spirit had become such a habit in our family that at first we found it difficult to be able to talk at all. It seemed like so much of what came to our minds were critical thoughts, and then those were translated to critical words. In the process of wanting to reverse this situation, we worked at not speaking critical words and reminding those who did that it was what we had heard. We often found ourselves not saying something or starting to say it, catching ourselves, and not finishing it. That accountability within our family was a good foundation for all of us working away from critical spirits. We realized that if we wouldn’t say it to the person we were talking about, it was most likely critical and shouldn’t be said at all.
We sometimes justified critical things we really wanted to say like this, “I know this might sound critical, but it isn’t meant to be that way.” However, with those words, it was evident that there was a critical spirit at the root. Excuses and justifications did not change critical words into edifying ones.
I know there has been quite a bit of Scripture in this Mom’s Corner, but the Word is so full of wonderful verses to help us away from a critical spirit, which leads to critical words, that I wanted to share them with you. Let me include just a couple more. “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
Have you allowed a critical spirit to creep into your heart? Are there critical words coming from your mouth? Would you like to see that changed? May I encourage you to determine right now that you won’t allow critical words from your mouth and that you will allow the Lord to replace the critical thoughts with praise, gratitude, and contentment?