7 Ways to Overcome a Critical Spirit
You want to help. You want to make things better. I get it. We all get it. But it's time to be honest. Being critical isn't helpful. If you really want to make things better in your church, home, or organization might I suggest you try one of the following seven suggestions?
1. Pray for those you want to criticize.
It's pretty tough to be harsh with people when you are praying for them. If we were all to start here our lives would have a lot more grace and a lot less hurt. Before you say a negative word about someone go talk to their heavenly Father. Ask God to soften your heart, to encourage them in their efforts, and to use all of our fallen efforts to His glory.
2. Encourage those you want to criticize.
It takes guts to try in this life. Every part of everything we do is seen by everyone, and the availability of information online brings unrealistic comparisons to average Joe's. Before you criticize anyone offer them a word of encouragement. If you can't find something redemptive about them, then the problem is with you...not them. Find (and focus on) the positive efforts and contributions they have made. You will build relational capital, and you might even have the trust to help them (with constructive criticism) at some point.
3. Meet with those you want to criticize.
Too much criticism happens in the shadows. Most critics offer their criticisms to people other than the one being criticized. This is especially true of pastors. We live in the public eye, and we must be open to rebuke. But all too often the critics share their information with someone other than the object of their disappointment. Meeting with a person humanizes them. It reminds you that they are a real person with real feelings. And as an aside, when you meet with them, pray for them before you say a word.
4. Write a thank you note to someone who has done it well.
Often times we feel obligated to criticize someone, because we've seen someone else do their "thing" really well. Instead of criticizing the one who is weak and failing perhaps you could send a thank you note to the one you've seen do "it" well. You'll feel better, and you'll brighten (instead of darken) someone's day.
5. Give it a try yourself.
"It's not my gift," is the usual response I get to this suggestion. And my response? "Neither is criticism."
Criticism isn't one of the fruits of the Spirit. It's not your unique calling to criticize those who are trying. Before you say a word of criticism, give it a try. I promise, it will make you a more gracious person.
6. Journal it first.
Write down the words you would say, and then ask your spouse (or a good friend) to read the words. Ask them how they would feel if someone said this to them. Ask yourself how you would feel. Take a day and pray, and then revisit the words you've written down. The object of your criticism (probably) isn't going anywhere. Make sure you get it right. That's more important than getting it out.
7. Get involved!
Can you help? Can you coach? Can you find a way to develop someone's skill or improve their abilities? If all you can see is the negative then your ministry is more like Satan's than Christ's. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Jesus has come to give abundant life! Maybe you have a keen ability to spot weakness and shortcomings, but if you don't have enough love to actually help someone you're just a crashing cymbal or a clanging gong. You have a lot more to offer than just negative input. Get involved in the process, and help people rise up!
Sometimes negative things have to be expressed. Sometimes we have to offer "the faithful wounds of a friend". Remember this, when surgeons operate they use both skill and anesthesia. Truth without love is like surgery without anesthesia. You might get better (if you don't die), but you'll never trust that doctor again. Let's be people who offer truth AND grace.
How have you overcome having a critical spirit? Share in the comments below or online!