Crushing a Critical Spirit: Friday’s Feedback
Reader Question: I struggle with keeping my expectations of others realistic. This makes me overly critical of my husband and I know it’s not good for our marriage. I just wake up in a bad mood often especially after we’ve had a fight before bed the night before and I don’t want to wake up in a bad mood honestly but it just happens. I have a hard time letting go of negative experiences and I know I hold my husband to a high standard. I want to change. I’ve tried prayer, journaling, talking to my pastor and his wife, and counseling, but I can’t seem to change. I know it’s eating at my marriage and my heart. Can you help me?
Before You Begin…
Let me start off by saying it’s wonderful that you acknowledge a problem and you desire to change. That’s a good place to start.
What is a critical spirit? Criticism includes everything from belittling, condemning, cynicism, demanding, fault-finding, nagging, sarcasm, and/or scolding disapprovingly. A critical spirit is an obsessive attitude of fault-finding and judging others unfairly.
Criticism is like a weed, creeping in slowly at first, but eventually overtaking everything in the garden, and choking out all goodness and godliness.
Can you crush a critical spirit? Yes. Will it be easy? No. You mentioned various methods you’ve been trying to work through this aspect of yourself. These are great tools to utilize, but first, you must be willing to change. You need to commit to working hard, go through the pain of breaking bad habits, offer your sin up to the Lord and ask Him to equip you with the tools to keep criticism from undercutting your marriage again.
Ask yourself: what’s my motivation? Is it to get right before God? Is it to save your marriage? Is it to improve your home life? It may be all of the above or something else.
Next, ask yourself: what will this change look like? What are your expectations for yourself when you’ve worked through your critical spirit and are filled with a spirit of praise? How will this improve your relationship with God? with your husband? with others?
Finally, ask yourself: what safeguards will I have in place when I struggle in the future? During this journey, you need to have accountability. Keep a journal of your thoughts, emotions, and progress. Share this with an accountability partner – a trusted, mature Christian woman like your pastor’s wife – and have this person pray with you regularly.
Over the next 3 weeks, I’ll be addressing this question. Today, I’m using the acronym C.R.U.S.H. to easily remember strategies for crushing a critical spirit.
Confront the Root Issue
“Search me, oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
Why are you critical? When I was first married, I had a hard time accepting my husband’s salary. We were super tight financially, and we argued about money constantly. I had no concept of how to save money or budget. When I’d get upset, I’d lash out at him letting him know he “needed” to be making more money to support me. Was the root issue money? No, it was a loss of control. I was accustomed to my family providing for my needs, paying my bills, and bailing me out of financial struggles. I was accustomed to being able to call the shots in my own life, and spend my money the way I wanted to, and of course, now I couldn’t since I wasn’t working and my husband was. I was fearful because I wasn’t in control anymore… and in reality, I never was.
Criticism could be borne from unmet expectations, a negative attitude, jealousy, pride, or immaturity in the faith. All of these causes stem from fear – fear of letting go, fear of confessing sin in one’s own life, fear of being less than the best, fear of being unimportant, or fear of what spiritual growth looks like and the hard work it takes to grow. Whatever the issue, address it!
Regularly Renew Your Mind
“ Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Belittling your husband, speaking sarcastically, nagging him constantly to “do better” or “be better,” making fun of him when he screws up, and condemning his choices isn’t respectful. These things do not reflect a changed heart and a renewed mind.
- Get into the Word regularly. What does Scripture say about criticism? Start with Romans 2:1-3; Matthew 7:1-5; and Proverbs 29:11. Use a concordance or cross-referencing to find other Bible verses that are applicable.
- Commit to Scripture memory. One of the great benefits of memorizing and meditating upon God’s Word is to claim victory over sin and defeat the Devil’s lies. Psalm 119:9, 11 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your (God’s) Word… I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Ask God to reveal to you His truth, and select verses to commit to memory to recall these truths when you are tempted to be critical.
Understand God’s Promises
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
Everyone wakes up in a bad mood on occasion. Something just feels off, and then it feels like the whole day is off. However, if you’re waking up frequently “feeling funky,” then it’s time to seek help. It’s possible you are suffering from a medical condition and need to seek the help of a medical professional. But you are also suffering from a spiritual condition and as a Christian, there’s no reason for you to be waking up angry everyday.
You have God’s strength and hope in the Lord that you can defeat a critical spirit. Reflect on God’s promises regularly. In one of my old journals, I have this prayer written in the cover:
“Lord, I want my soul to be joyful before You today because You love me and I belong to You. Renew my mind with Your Spirit. Guard my heart with Your truth. Establish the works of my hands with Your love.”
Consider using this, or writing your own, and placing it by your bed to read when you wake up.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
If you feel a critical word surfacing in your head or you catch yourself criticizing, stop and pray. It can be something as simple as, “Holy Spirit, help!” This is when Scripture memorization also comes in handy because you can recall to mind verses to help you to be Spirit-controlled instead of critically filled. Ask the Lord to put a guard over your mouth, and to plant the filter of His Word deep in your heart and mind.
Hold Your Husband in the Highest Regard
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Criticism is a devastating blow for your husband, undermines his authority and confidence, and makes him feel disrespected.
Things Your Husband Will See as Disrespectful and Critical
- Arguing with him angrily when he makes a decision you disagree with
- Laughing at him or saying “I told you so” when he fails
- Keeping a record (mental or written) of his faults and wrongdoings
- Calling him names
- Belittling him in front of others
- Cynically saying you never expect him to change
- Condemning his decisions verbally
- Demanding he get a better job and provide for you better
- Nagging him about making home repairs, spending more time with the kids, or you, etc
- Scolding him like a child
- Obsessively finding fault with him
- Manipulating him because you’re “so unhappy”
- Punishing your husband when things don’t go your way by withholding affection or sex or refusing to take care of the home/children/pets etc
- Threatening divorce because you don’t get your way
Make a list of all the reasons you love your husband. Review this list frequently (I suggest daily in your case). When your husband does fail, as he inevitably will do so, remember these reasons.
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Love never gives up,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end..” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (MSG)
Come back next Friday and we’ll discuss building a heart of praise!
Do you struggle or have you struggled with criticism? How did the Lord work in your life and help you overcome a critical spirit? What other ways work for squashing the criticism?
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