by John Ankerberg
Let’s briefly consider some important factors (causes) contributing to cultivating a critical spirit:
1. Our Sinful or Selfish nature is referred to in the Bible as “the flesh.”
A critical person is walking in the flesh, not the Spirit. Rather than drawing on God for strength and perspective, the critical person relies upon his own resources. Cynicism inhibits faith and quenches the Spirit of God, causing us to live based on negative feelings, not faith. Godly people will always be optimistic and full of hope because they know, love and serve a good, great and gracious God. On the other hand, the outlook of the sinful nature or “the flesh” will be one of despair. Why? Because apart from Christ, we have no realistic basis for hope (Jn. 15:5; Phil. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15:58)
2. Poor Self-Concept: It’s been said, “Hurting people hurt people.”
This is demonstrably true. When you meet people who are constantly critical, you can be pretty sure that they’re suffering from a poor self-concept which is a works-based self concept. They see themselves as unattractive, failing, or in some manner unworthy, perhaps they even condemn themselves. Finding faults keeps us from seeing, feeling and dealing with our own pain and shortcomings.
3. Little or no Grace: A critical person has experienced little or no grace from God. It’s far easier to see others’ sins than our own.
Judgmental people rarely get in touch with God’s perspective on their own ugly failures, or with God’s incredible gift of forgiveness. We’re all Pharisees at heart. Have we honestly faced our sin and experienced God’s grace? Have you ever wept over your sins? When you see the sins of others, are you aware that you are just as capable of the very things they do, were God to withdraw His grace from you?
4. Pessimism or Negativity: A negative emotional focus, a bad attitude or a negative, cynical, secular view of life.
A negative person may have unconfessed sin in his life (Romans 2:1). There are some individuals who are so negative they assume the role as the devil’s advocate. It seems that no matter what opinion you have, they’ll take the opposite and argue with you. The devil gives us enough problems, we don’t need to have anyone advocate for him!
5. Insecurity: Criticism is often a conscious or subconscious means to “elevate one’s own self-esteem or self image.”
By putting others down, they’re inwardly trying to build themselves us by feeling more important or appearing more knowledgeable. Envy of the good fortune of others is often the cause of a critical attitude and/or action. Ministers can be guilty of this as well. We need to learn to rejoice with those who rejoice and be happy for the good fortune of others.
6. Immaturity: Christians must always keep their faith focused upon Christ and His Word, not on others who will invariably disappoint (Heb. 12:2).
Immature believers haven’t progressed very far in their faith and are perhaps too dependent upon the faith of other Christians. Unfortunately, when they begin to notice the flaws or shortcomings in others, this becomes a subconscious threat to their own faith and walk. Criticism becomes a reaction of disappointment, because their unrealistic expectations in others have been crushed.
7. An Unrenewed Mind: Put-downs, making fun of, criticism, sarcasm are the world’s ways of reacting to the faults of others.
However, as Christians we shouldn’t behave this way. Paul says that our thinking and attitude should be regularly renewed by God’s Word, which teaches us to bear the infirmities of the weak, to love, show compassion and offer encouragement (Rom. 12:2).
8. A Root of Bitterness develops when we fail to obtain the grace of God to forgive. When we fail to forgive others we become angry, bitter and resentful, not better.
“Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” Hebrews 12:15. Such people develop a negative emotional focus by harboring bitterness or resentment toward one who has offended them. Our ability to live healthy, happy, harmonious lives is largely related to our willingness and ability to consistently forgive and ask forgiveness.
9. Bad Company: The reality is, for better or worse, we become like those with whom we associate.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: 33, we should not be deceived, bad company ruins good morals or corrupts good character. If you are basically a positive person and you associate with a lot of negative people, and you are not having a positive influence on them, over time, they can have an adverse influence on you and pull you down into their negativity.
10. The Devil specializes in influencing negative, obsessive, sinful attitudes and behavior.
He may use any of these factors or other techniques, to influence a complaining or critical attitude and to stir up turmoil and strife within the body of Christ (Eph. 6:12). We must be on guard so we won’t be used as a tool of the Devil to discourage or tear down others through criticism. In Ephesians 4:27, Paul warns us not to give the Devil an opportunity to be used by him. Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). Don’t allow Satan to use you!
Hebrews 10:24-25: “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on.” The reason we come together as a church isn’t to criticize, but to “encourage” one another. “Cursing the darkness” won’t change anything; instead we must learn to “light a candle.” Ephesians 4:15 says we are to “speak the truth in love;” in so doing, others will change for the better. Loving encouragement is a “motivational force.” If we ever hope to help others, we need to learn to encourage them. Just as sugar attracts more flies than honey, so encouragement helps others more than a critical spirit or a judgmental attitude.
Let’s use our tongues to build up not tear down: “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word, nor unwholesome or worthless talk (ever) come out of your mouth; but only such speech as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace to those who hear it” (Eph. 4:29, Amplified Bible)
For More Information: Cures for a Critical Spirit & How Can One Offer Godly Constructive Feedback.