Have you ever been hurt by the words of others? Can you think back on a time where someone made a comment to you that you still think about from time to time all these years later?
What if you were the giver of those words? What if when someone answered the questions above you were the one they thought of?
Recently, I shared how I had to deal with the spirit of criticism. I explained what it looked like and the damage it had done to my self-esteem. I also described the process I had to go through to heal and find my identity in Christ and not the words of others.
But what happens when you’re the critical person?
A critical spirit is meant to destroy. Words have the power to crush, condemn, and tear down someone (Proverbs 15:4). It’s possible you could be a person with a critical spirit and not even realize it. I know this because at one time that was me.
As a teen, I was very critical. I would speak poorly of others that I was often envious of. I was quick to see the negative and point it out. I wanted others to see how “bad” someone else was in hopes they would like me more.
After meeting Jesus, He changed this part of my heart. Over the years I started to see the good first and called out the positive in others or situations.
One day my brother came home and told me he had started dating a girl I may know and that he was going to bring her over sometime to meet our parents and myself. A few days later he brought his new girlfriend over and I said hi and offered some cookies that I had just baked. She was super shy and I thought nothing of it. Later on that evening, my brother returned from taking his girlfriend home and he shared something with me that I’ve never forgotten.
He said when he went to pick up his girlfriend to bring her over, he shared with her who I was and that I was his sister. She immediately responded by saying, “Heather is your sister?!” My brother said yeah and asked why she seemed upset by that. She told him that I use to be so mean to her that she was afraid of me. My brother, confused, responded by saying, “What? My sister? She’s the nicest person I know?” My brother said that’s why she was so shy when she came over because she was nervous to be around me.
I stood there stunned not knowing what to say. How on earth could someone think that of me? That night I was praying and asking God to show me how this was possible and if I had done something to make her feel that way. God then reminded me of what I was like prior to knowing Him. He reminded me of the harsh words I would share daily and how this girl stood on the sidelines and watched me spew them everywhere I went.
Most of the time, someone who has a critical spirit doesn’t even realize. They don’t see how their words are being perceived and how they affect those that hear them. There are different types of criticism and if we’re not careful about guarding our heart or mind we could easily possess any of them.
The FOUR Types of Critical Spirits
1. The Gossiper: The gossiper is the one who loves to know the secrets of others so they could be the one to share it. This is done with a sinful motive and without the consent of the person who the information belongs to. The gossiper likes to appear powerful or be a source of all knowledge to make themselves feel important. They will often put themselves in conversations to purposely gain information while simultaneously thinking about who they could share it with.
Proverbs 11:13 says, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”
2. The Judge: The judge has a harsh critical point of view. They often can’t see the viewpoints of others because theirs is clearly the right one in their eyes. They tend to see the mistakes of others and exaggerate them while excusing their own shortcomings. They will often embellish their knowledge in subjects as a way to defend their point of view or level of intelligence.
James 2:13 says, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
3. The Slanderer: The slanderer is someone who makes false statements for the purpose of damaging another person’s reputation. This person will often make statements against those they are jealous or envious of. They will try to get the attention off of their errors by making false claims about others.
Proverbs 10:18 says, “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool.”
4. The Complainer: The complainer is someone who’s always negative about the lives of others and their outlook on life. Everyday tasks that others don’t think twice about are something a complainer will focus on. When asked if they’re excited or hopeful they will find something negative to focus on instead. They often express their discontentment and lack a heart of gratitude towards blessings.
James 5:9 says, “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”
It may be hard reading that list and seeing yourself relating to some of those characteristics. It may even be an eye-opener. My heart in sharing this as someone who was the one delivering words of criticism and also on the receiving end of them- I had no clue how harmful the words really were until the damage was already done.
I spent years allowing Christ to transform my heart to be more like Him and years healing from the hurtful words of others. Next week we will talk about the motives behind a critical spirit and how to overcome it.
If God could take me- a negative, critical word spewing mess and transform me. He can for you too.
Luke 6:45 says, A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Susan Evans says
I see myself in the description you have of “judge.” Recently I read a Scripture about the fact that we will be judged the way we judge, so I want to be more merciful, even to people who are doing wrong.
Amen! Being merciful and showing grace!
Brandon Adams says
I’ve been #2 for far too long, and yes, it’s difficult to spot it until someone else calls it out for you. Painful moment.
I also found an interesting side effect: that I was just as harsh on myself as I was on others. More so, perhaps. And that doesn’t work either, because it’s a rejection of God’s grace for us. Awful way to live!
Accepting the cross means embracing his grace, both for us and for others.
I do believe that is a commonality with #2. Those who judge others tend to be a tough judge on themselves. Thank you for reading!
Thank you for this insightful post! I think I’m one or two of these;(
I know God can help me transform!
Amy Hagerup says
Wow! You gave each one pretty strong names! Good for you. We must not harbor sin in our lives. Thanks for such a clear presentation.
Thank you for reading, Amy. Each name was inspired by scripture. I do believe we need to call it what it is so others can see it for what it really is and choose to walk in Jesus and not in sin.
Cheks from thismamaandherkids says
Sobering list to check myself against. I love how God uses adversity to mold us to be more like Him and develop empathy towards others. Nothing like the “humility from trouble” to strip us of much of this.
Crystal Russell says
This is so good. Thanks for sharing. I think we all need to check ourselves from time to time. This can sneak up on us
Melissa Henderson says
Sometimes criticizing ourselves and/or others can be easy. Afterwards, the feelings are awful. Shame, regret, remorse. When I am hard on myself and complain about something I can’t do anymore, I try to remember all the things I can still do. Even if I can’t run or lift objects like I did in the past, I can still show God’s love to others and to myself. 🙂
I fit in a couple of those categories. Thank you for pointing out in my own life how to pray to be more like Jesus.
Thank you for lifting up this reminder to us-I pray to be less critical, and to remember that I need God’s grace just as much as anyone else. I saw myself in number one-and this is something I have been working on for some time. Lord thank You for Your grace, mercy, and forgiveness!
Elizabeth Ramsey says
What an amazingly self-aware post! I too was quite critical as a teen. Likely falling into the complainer (self-pity) and gossip (low self esteem) camps. Life becomes so much better when you can get over these self-destructive behaviors! And you can overcome them – either through religion, as you have or through mindfulness and an active willingness to change and practice new, more productive thought patterns. Great post!
Thank you, Elizabeth!
I appreciate the reminder that no matter how long we’ve walked with God, and no matter how far we might feel we’ve come, it’s never a good idea to think we’ve arrived. I agree that we need to assess from time to time and consider how we affect others.
I appreciate how you broke these down. Few things are more habit-forming than a critical spirit. My young daughter and I have been talking about this extensively, and it helps me examine my own thought patterns and words. Thank you for this reminder. Trusting God to continue to do his work in us.
Thank you for reading, Traci.
Wow! Great post. Such a eye opener to self reflect. I remember years ago when I first came to Christ, my mother told me I had responded poorly to someone, I persisted that I wasn’t rude, I was just being bold and honest, my mother said, if that was so, then it would have been more graceful. She explained to me, what I thought was always to be bold and honest came off to be rude sometimes. I was hurt by this because I never wanted to be like that, especially as a new Christian, I knew it was an area in my life I did not want anymore. So, I asked my mom that day to pray for me to see the things I was blind to, that the Lord would open my eyes spiritually to the things that needed to be removed from my life. My mother instantly hugged me and began to pray that prayer. I was so blessed for that step of growth as a Christian. To love His people with a clean heart and tongue!
Thank you so much, Carmen, for your story and testimony. What a great lesson you learned and others will learn from your willingness to share.
Kristi Woods says
Good word. I’ll be pinning this one. I roll around on the mat far too often with a critical spirit. I love how you immediately sought the Lord’s wisdom concerning your brother’s girlfriend. He truly has all the answers, doesn’t He? #goJesus Visiting via Grace Girls
Timberley @ Living Our Prioritites says
This is so thought provoking and encouraging. I know it can be a touchy subject but you wrote it with so much conviction and grace. Loved it. Sharing with our Living Our Priorities community. Stopping by from By His Grace Bloggers.
I can see myself in all 4 categories. I’ve at one point or another been them all. Even to this day I find myself slipping into old patterns.
It is a life long journey for me. But ???? percent worth it.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for the post! Definitely can relate to this and have been thinking about this too. I think I can fall into #2, but sometimes inwardly #4. It’s not that I will say things out loud, as I’ve learned that complaining about situations is not good, but sometimes I can think it without verbalising, and I don’t think that is healthy either.
Our words are very powerful. We have the power of life and death in our tongues, and the ability to speak words of life into being.
I love the point you made about the words in your head are still unhealthy whether you speak them or not.