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CONFRONTING THE HEART OF A CRITIC
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
The phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones and words can never hurt me!” couldn’t be further from the truth. Words can be catastrophic, tearing through your heart like a tornado roaring down a residential street. While there may not be any visible destruction, the damage to your spirit can be just as devastating as a row of demolished homes.
Although the initial sting of harsh words is evident, you may be unaware of the lingering effects. Overly critical words leave you with hurt feelings and a poor self-image. Being wounded by someone with a critical spirit often changes how you see yourself. God holds us all accountable for how we use our words – especially the ones that hurt. Critical words don’t come from a wise heart, nor do they reflect God’s heart. Only He can heal your spirit and teach you how to respond to criticism. He’s waiting to enrich your heart with encouragement, both for your good and for the good of others.
Is someone in your life overly critical of you or unusually harsh with you? Maybe it’s someone close—a spouse, a boss, a friend, a parent. If you’ve been at the receiving end of caustic words and attitudes, or if you recognize having the heart of a critic yourself, God’s Word offers practical solutions to such critical clamor. The Women of Faith resources will show you how to respond to harsh criticism, confront someone with a critical spirit, accept constructive criticism, and triumph over negative criticism with truth. God holds all of us accountable for how we use our words, especially words that wound. Harsh, critical words don’t pour out of the hearts of godly people.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7
Abrasive words are never helpful. They are hurtful, and qualify as verbal and emotional abuse. Such criticism grates against the grain of your soul … wearing you down … stripping you of your worth.
God holds all of us accountable for how we use our words, especially words that wound. Harsh, critical words don’t pour out of the hearts of godly people. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” Matthew 12:34–35
Be an Encourager—Not a Critic
Periodically, someone in your life assumes the position of “heavenly sandpaper.” This person is an expert at finding fault, no matter how minute—and focusing on it. The result of such abrasion is anything but refining. Instead, hurtful words grate against the grain ... strip away self-worth ... and wear you down emotionally.
God holds all of us accountable for how we use words— especially words that wound others. Excessive, critical words do not come from the heart of the wise ... neither do they reflect the heart of God.
“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”
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What Is a Critical Spirit?
A critical spirit is an excessively negative attitude with harshness in judging. Criticism has two different meanings.
- Speaking fairly with discernment in regard to merit or value
- Speaking unfairly with trivial or harsh judgments
“The tongue has the power of life and death.”
What Is Encouragement?
Encouragement is the act of inspiring another person with comfort, counsel, and confidence. The word encourage literally means “to cause another to be confident.”
- En means “to cause to be.”
- Courage means “confidence.”
“Encourage one another daily.”
9 Differences between a Critical Spirit and a Caring Spirit
- A critical spirit condemns the person as well as the action.
- A caring spirit condemns the action, not the person. (Proverbs 12:18)
- A critical spirit focuses on the faults of others.
- A caring spirit focuses on self-examination. (Luke 6:41)
- A critical spirit ridicules others.
- A caring spirit refrains from ridiculing others. (Proverbs 11:12)
- A critical spirit makes judgments based on appearances.
- A caring spirit makes judgments based on the facts. (John 7:24)
- A critical spirit assumes the worst without first hearing from the accused.
- A caring spirit assumes the best while waiting to hear from the accused. (John 7:51)
- A critical spirit tears others down without seeing the unmet needs.
- A caring spirit builds others up according to their needs. (Ephesians 4:29)
- A critical spirit confronts others publicly.
- A caring spirit confronts others privately. (Matthew 18:15)
- A critical spirit responds harshly when accused by others.
- A caring spirit responds appreciatively without quarreling when others give advice. (Proverbs 13:10)
- A critical spirit lacks mercy toward others.
- A caring spirit responds with mercy toward others. (James 2:12–13)
“The lips of the righteous know what finds favor, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.”
The children’s rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” could not be further from the truth. Critical words can be more catastrophic than a natural disaster. There may be no visible destruction, and damage to the spirit of a child is devastating. Many children who live with messages that wound their self-worth will resort to criticism as a means of self-defense. Painful messages played over and over cause hurt people to hurt people!
“I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.”
- Harshness says— “You’re not worth consideration.”
- Unconcern says— “You’re not valuable.”
- Rejection says— “You’re not acceptable.”
- Taunting says— “You deserve to be put down.”
Root Cause of a Critical Spirit
Wrong Belief: “My sense of significance is enhanced when I show how others are wrong. The fact that ‘I am right’ justifies my criticism of others.”
Right Belief: “When I am critical of others, I am only judging the sin in myself. Apparently, God thought I was significant enough to create me with His plan and purpose for me. Because Christ lives in me, continually extending His mercy toward me, I will reflect His mercy by encouraging the hearts of others.”
“We urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:14–15)
Enlarge Your Heart to Become an Encourager
- An encourager has a humble heart ... a heart that sees its own shortcomings. (Psalm 139:23–24)
- An encourager has a compassionate heart ... a heart that actively cares about the lives of others. (Colossians 3:12)
- An encourager has an understanding heart ... a heart that learns and draws out the hearts of others. (Proverbs 20:5)
- An encourager has an accepting heart ... a heart that offers a sense of security. (Romans 15:7)
- An encourager has an appreciative heart ... a heart that sees God-given worth in everyone. (Luke 12:6–7)
- An encourager has a praising heart ... a heart that praises the positives. (Philippians 4:8)
- An encourager has an exhorting heart ... a heart that doesn’t wound with words. (Ephesians 4:29)
- An encourager has a discerning heart ... a heart to see the deepest unmet needs of others. (Philippians 4:19)
- An encourager has a wise heart ... a heart that relies on the Spirit for truth. (1 Corinthians 2:13)
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
How to Respond to the Criticism of Others
- Be assured that you can accept others in the same way Christ accepts you. (Romans 15:7)
- Be open to the slightest kernel of truth when you are criticized. (Proverbs 17:10)
- Be willing to consider the criticism. If it is true, this person is God’s megaphone to get your attention. (Proverbs 12:15)
- Be able to receive criticism without being defensive. (Proverbs 15:12)
- Be determined to speak well of your critic. (Romans 12:14)
- Be committed to pray for your critic. (Matthew 5:44)
- Be aware that as a follower of Christ, you will be criticized (Matthew 5:11)
- Be encouraged that you will be disciplined by God because you are His child. (Hebrews 12:5–6)
- Be dependent on the Lord’s perspective to determine your worth and value, not on the opinions of others. (Galatians 1:10)
- Be discerning regarding the accuracy of the critical words of others. (Proverbs 16:21)
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
"When you see your significance as a child of God— when you learn how dearly loved you are by the Lord— instead of tearing others down, you will be fulfilled in building others up." —June Hunt
Encouragement Communicates Care
On this day...
Mend a quarrel.
Search out a forgotten friend.
Dismiss a suspicion and replace it with a trust.
Write a letter to someone who misses you.
Encourage a youth who has lost his faith.
Keep a promise.
Forget an old grudge.
Examine your demands on others.
Fight for a principle.
Express your gratitude.
Overcome an old fear.
Take time to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Give God the praise.
Tell someone you love them.
Tell them again, and again and again.
Key Verse to Learn
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Key Passage to Read
Grace Filled Words
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
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God desires to give you hope as you face life challenges, problems and difficult trials. The good news for us, God specializes in redemption and transformation. He takes that which was lost and restores it. He takes that which was dead and gives it life. He takes that which had no hope and rewrites its story. This is our God! As you pray today, ask God boldly to transform the thing inside you that you want to see changed forever!
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