In my last post, I mentioned a life situation in which I ‘naturally’ habitually criticize someone (or two…). And I feel so right and justified in my opinions, that I don’t even realize I’m having a critical spirit. For me, it’s usually leadership figures that irk me somehow.
(** Pause to say that I’m not talking about constructive criticism, if you know what I mean.)
Someone asked me what to do with those critical thoughts when you realize they are a sinful pattern of thinking. We can’t just leave a vacuum in our minds.
This is a great question, and I don’t have all the answers. But I will write a few answers that I see working in my life.
First, I want to say that as I’ve aged, there is one element of Christianity that I appreciate more and more: being open to change. Christianity teaches us to be open to being changed. Rather than rooting deeper and deeper into sinful habits, we’re taught to be open to God’s transforming power, to becoming like Christ.
This dawned on me when I realized that some people think, say, and do wrong things, and they might never think to stop it, to change, to become more like the brilliant life-liver that Christ was. (Christ lived the most brilliant life EVER; He is a glorious pattern of life.)
Second, about criticism particularly. I ask myself how Christ thought about, spoke about, and treated people. He had every right, every speck of knowledge, in order to be correctly critical of every. single. person. ever alive. He could be standing before His Father criticizing us, and He could be RIGHT about it.
And maybe that’s one way to understand our critical spirits– it might be true, but it’s not lovingkindness. And when truth is not united with lovingkindness, it’s not Christ.
Second, I make a serious agreement with God: 1. I will stop running the tape of critical thoughts through my brain. I actually made a list of things that God would like me to think about to take the place of those critical thoughts– my husband, my kids, God’s Word, etc. I posted this in my kitchen. 2. I will stop the words, even (especially!) to those closest to me that I feel free to criticize to about those people that bug me (I’m most open to my my husband and a few close friends, so those are the people who hear my critical thoughts because I know they are sympathetic to my opinion). I told God that I would STOP. And really, why pollute my closest relationships with my negativity about others? In one way, I feel like I’m trapping myself off from my only ways of expressing myself, but you know, I don’t need to express those sinful things to anyone anyway! I had to Just Stop. Stop the thoughts, stop the channels in relationships with those who listen to me.
Third, like Christ, we begin interceding. This is what Christ did and does for us. In His long prayer in John, He intercedes for us about out unity– that we would be one.
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Jesus is probably praying right now for our unity– that we be one even as He is with the Father. And He prays that His joy be fulfilled in us!
It helps me to remember this. And to remember that unity and joy go together. Those that I criticize– well, in our shared faith in our Savior, I have more in common with them than I do with most people in the world.
Those are some thoughts that have helped me with the tendency to criticize.