I’m blessed with many wonderful friends, but there is one in particular who I would describe as a “breath of fresh air.” Just being in her presence encourages me. I’ve known her for more decades than I would like to admit I’ve even lived, and I can remember only once or twice that she’s spoken critically of anyone, and in those circumstances, I couldn’t say I blamed her.
Sure. We’ve talked about people and situations that concerned us.
But the difference between her and a few of my other friends is she always looks for the best in people. Why is that I wonder? What motivates a person to think good about people that others criticize?
The love of God.
My friend is full of it.
In I Corinthians 13:7 the Bible tells us that an attribute of love is being “ever ready to believe the best of every person.”
Are we ready to believe the best?
Or do we assume the worst? Do we frequently find ourselves thinking or speaking negatively about the people around us? Friends? Family? Our boss? Are we a “breath of fresh air” like my friend, or is it possible we could have a critical spirit? The word “spirit” in the Bible actually means breath. What are we breathing out into the world?
There’s a lot of negativity in the air these days. When I say “in the air,” I’m not just referring to T.V. and the internet, though there is plenty of negativity there, for sure. Negativity has invaded our collective “personal space.” The very air feels heavy. Like there’s too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen.
That’s what a critical spirit does.
It sucks the oxygen out of the room. When our conversation becomes critical and complaining, when we judge and condemn, we’re poisoning our own atmosphere.
Of course, this is happening on a national level that leaves us breathless.
But we can only freshen the air in our own space. And the space of those we love!
Matthew 7:1-2 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. (Msg)
Does that mean we should never talk to another person about their bad behavior? Of course, it doesn’t. That’s love also. What I’m referring to is the “atmosphere” we create. Is it toxic? Is it devoid of life-giving oxygen?
Why do you think God told us not to judge others?
Because we’re not qualified. We have our own problems.
We see it a couple of verses later in Matthew 7:4 -5 . . . or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
We have the power to bring life to our brother with our tongue but to do it, we have to look past his faults—even his sins—and speak life and not death. We have to love him—or her. If we’re able to do all that, then, maybe—just maybe—that person will allow us to talk about that speck that’s been hindering their vision.
Having a critical spirit can be dangerous to your health.
Proverbs 3:7-8 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
If we think we’re always right and judge other people harshly, we’re actually sucking the nourishment out of our own bones. Yuck!
Science has proven that our attitudes affect our health. But the Bible said it long before the scientists did.
Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. (Msg)
Maybe that’s why we feel so exhausted all the time!
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Much of our criticism is simply gossip. Gossip is one of the most deadly activities we can engage in.
Proverbs 26:22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Gossip doesn’t just wound the recipient of it—it wounds the gossiper. Spiritually, mentally, and physically.
Of course, it’s not gossip if it’s true, right? Wrong!
I Peter 4:8 Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]. (Amplified)
So, what if you’re the one on the bad end of this situation.
What if someone you are close to constantly criticizes you. Maybe they don’t even say it out loud, but you know they’re always judging you. Does denying and defending usually help? I doubt it. It’s more likely to convince the person that they’re right. So what can you do?
I believe a good place to start is thanking God for that person.
What? How can I thank God for someone who rips my heart out with their constant criticism? We can thank God for them because God loves them. Just as much as He loves us.
And we can thank God for them because their criticism makes us look at our own hearts.
Don’t forget the log and the speck. Maybe it’s you who has the log. There’s almost always an element of truth in the accusations brought against us. We have the opportunity to consider what others say about us and yet reject the “poison” in their tongues. Thanking God for them changes the tone.
Have you ever found yourself (in a weak moment) hoping something would go wrong for someone you’re in conflict with, so they would see that they were wrong and you were right? I’ve caught myself doing that more than once.
Hmmm. I wonder where that thought comes from?
Criticism is a habit.
We can break that habit. But we have to recognize we have a critical spirit before we can work on getting rid of it.
There are some clues we can watch for: Does our stomach churn when we think about the person we’re complaining about? Do we use words like never, always, they are (instead of they do)? Do other people get tired of hearing our complaints?—want to get away from us? Do we feel empty inside after we’re through talking about a person or situation?
I want to be more like my “breath-of-fresh-air” friend. She inspires me to do better. Be better. I feel good after a visit with her, not depressed and discouraged. We can all be that person. We just have to want to change, and to let the love of God flow through us.
Love is always the answer.
Rebecca’s got some things to share that I know you’re going to benefit by. So, take it away Rebecca!
Love this mom! Such truth! I was thinking while reading this article that if we’re not a breath of fresh air, what are we? A stench in the nostrils of those around us?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the one who brings the stink!
When I think of “critical spirits” my mind immediately goes to social media. If we are one of those who is constantly stirring the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pot maybe we have a critical spirit that we’re not aware of.
We may think our anger is “righteous,” but if all it does is stir up anger in others instead of bringing hope, solutions, and awareness, maybe it’s just the plain old garden variety after all.
The thing about social media is it’s so easy to react. Quickly!
We can just click away on our phones and have a response or opinion posted in seconds! Even the leaders of our country get in trouble when they get itchy fingers!
James 1:19 Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. (Amplified)
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (ESV)
So what if we had some guidelines to follow before posting or sharing anything? Something to slow us down?
If we don’t want to “stink” let’s follow this STINK acrostic!
S—If you don’t want to stink, SIT on it for 24hrs. Many times I’ve saved something I wanted to post, and when I went back to it, I realized it was just awful! I was sharing out of high emotion rather than a desire to help people.
T—If you don’t want to stink, THINK before you post. Use your mind not your emotions. Ask yourself, “What good is this post going to bring?”
I—If you don’t want to stink, INVESTIGATE before you post! I always say my sister and I missed our calling. We should’ve been private investigators! Ha! Before you share something, do a five-minute check to see where the resource came from. How biased is it? What are other people saying about it? What does the Bible say about it? Is there evidence to back it up? You’d be shocked by what you might find in five minutes of research.
N—If you don’t want to stink, use NOTES. I use my notes app all day, every day. Many times I’ll have a thought on something I want to share on social media, so I’ll jot it down on my notes. That way I can save it and edit it before I share it. OR just trash it because it wasn’t worth posting.
K—If you don’t want to stink, get KNOWLEDGE. This is the most important one to remember. Proverbs 15:14 “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” NIV
Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Fearing God means to respect, be in awe, and submit. So where should we start with finding knowledge? Let’s start with submitting our ideas to God, and asking Him what we should post or share. THAT is the beginning of knowledge!
Hope this helps. I like it because it’s funny and easy to remember. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be known as a “breath of fresh air” than a stinky sister!
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