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It happens to all of us. The tendency to be critical rises in us, and before we know it, disapproving and fault-finding words escape our lips and cut deeply into someone. Perhaps someone we’re critical about didn’t hear what we said, but someone else heard the expression of our critical spirit. Even if it was just a thought that we never said, God heard and saw it all the same, for the power of life and death exists in the tongue.

James 3:7-8 reminds us that all kinds of creatures have been tamed by humanity, but no human can tame the tongue because it’s evil and full of poison. However, taming the tongue is secondary. It’s our critical minds and hearts that must first be renewed to think like Jesus so our tongues don’t emit venom. If you fear that you come off as critical sometimes but don’t want to, here are some ways to resist a critical spirit.

Practice gratitude.

Do you realize that people can be complainers and miserable with everything around them when they have a gratitude issue? The Bible says everything we have has been given to us. When someone does something you don’t like, think of how you can be thankful, even if it’s simply telling Jesus you’re grateful for a chance to turn the other cheek or get a glimpse of one small way that He was mocked, mistreated, tortured, or beaten on your behalf.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we read that we should give thanks in every circumstance because this is God’s will for us in Jesus Christ. That verse doesn’t tell us to give thanks only when things are going our way. If a situation makes you want to complain, lose your cool, or speak your mind, immediately thank God for it, and it’ll soften your heart and erase the tendency for you to be critical.

Practice humility.

A critical spirit causes us to look down on others so we can feel better about ourselves. However, it never gives us the satisfaction of feeling better. Ultimately, we feel worse because of the sin in our hearts that grieves God. Remember the Pharisees in the Bible? They weren’t more righteous than Jesus, but they still criticized the Son of God to the point of plotting His murder to eliminate or discredit what made them feel less righteous. We don’t want to be among that crowd, so the next time you feel a self-righteous mood flaring up to put someone in their place, remember your place at the foot of the cross.

Jesus died for all of us because of our inability to earn the righteousness of God and our sinful nature. Remembering that we need a Savior should help us understand that everyone else around us, whether they’re believers or not, needs one too. That Savior isn’t you or me or our rebukes or opinions. That Savior is Jesus Christ, the only perfect One who set the tone for us when He died on the cross. Let God praise you at the right time, not your words or criticisms of someone else.

Choose contentment.

Most people find that it’s easiest to be critical when we’re not happy, which indicates a spiritual issue. In addition to being thankful for everything, contentment develops in our lives when we tell God our feelings of privilege and ask for a spirit of contentment. Paul, who was imprisoned, whipped nearly to death, shipwrecked three times, and pelted with stones, amongst other dangers, said he learned the secret of being content in every situation. In Philippians 4:11-13, we read that the secret was knowing he could do all things through Christ who strengthens him.

In other words, Paul learned not to complain but to be aware of a God who could achieve much through Him and work all things out for those who love Him, according to Romans 8:28. When you choose to be happy with what God’s doing in your life, there’s no room to complain.

Practice praise.

Praise isn’t the same as being thankful for what we have. It’s recognition of who God is and worshipping Him for His features despite our circumstances. Throughout the Psalms, there’s a platform of how praise can change one’s perspective. In Psalm 73, Asaph acknowledged that he was jealous of the arrogant and resented that the unrighteous appeared to be flourishing.

Still, he was thankful to God and seemed to be going through one form of suffering after another. Even Asaph claimed that he kept his heart pure and washed his hands in innocence. He was troubled, and his spirit was bitter until he entered God’s sanctuary. Being in worship in God’s presence changed Asaph’s viewpoint and caused him to be able to say that God is his strength and portion forever. Praise will certainly cure a critical spirit.

Use your filter.

A filter keeps impurities out. We should think of our filter as the restrictive Holy Spirit that keeps us in check and convicts our hearts before we criticize, speak, or formulate a damaging response toward someone else. Ephesians 4:29 shares how to start the filtration process in our hearts to prevent what tries to work its way up to our mouths and escape in our speech. There are three steps to the filtration process. First, we should exercise self-control by protecting our mouths and not letting any unwholesome words slip out. Then, we should use discretion and only speak encouraging words that uplift others.

Lastly, we should use discernment and confirm that our words are timely according to the needs of the moment. How often was a tender word necessary, but we spoke a word of rebuke or correction instead? How often do your children need to hear that you love them first and later a lesson about how they could’ve averted that mistake? In Proverbs 15:23, we read that a person finds joy in giving a quick reply and how good a timely word is. Be the person who heals others with your timely words, not hurts.

Past or current pain doesn’t excuse our behavior. However, the realization that someone might be in emotional or physical pain can help us back off from criticism and give grace because we understand what it means to be hurt. No one is immune from pain, and although we must choose how to react to our circumstances, instead of thinking merely of our problems, try giving grace instead. Empathy means you may not understand, but you feel for them, which is the opposite of a critical spirit.

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