Theologian and Bible teacher John Piper listed seven strategies Christians can employ to combat the tendency toward having a “critical spirit.”
On Monday’s episode of the Desiring God podcast “Ask Pastor John,” a listener identified as Alan asked: “What does the Bible say about a critical spirit? What is a critical spirit? I assume holding high expectations is not the same thing as having a ‘critical spirit.’ So when do high expectations become sinful judgmentalism? And how can I fight against this tendency inside of me to focus mostly on the failures of others?”
Starting with the premise that all people are “wired to be critical,” Piper went on to list seven ways he found through personal experience and reading the Bible to battle a critical spirit.
The first was to recognize one’s own faults, with Piper pointing to a passage in Matthew Chapter 7 in which Jesus warns His followers about being hypocrites when judging others.
The second was to remember what one is saved from, the third was to be thankful, and the fourth was to “meditate on what love is and how essential love is to the Christian.”
“I think most of us should memorize all of First Corinthians 13. That chapter is only 13 verses long. It’s the most important chapter on love in the Bible,” Piper stressed.
“And you can memorize it in a week if you put your mind to it, and then say it to yourself over and over again for a year or so, and see what happens.”
Fifth, Piper recommended that believers ask themselves how being constantly critical is truly beneficial, noting that “Jesus said that’s a good question to ask when it comes to a lot of sins: What good are they doing? How are you helping anybody with that particular bent?”
The sixth strategy Piper advised was to “look at the whole of nature” and “cultivate a view of life, hour by hour, that is more expansive — bigger heart, global, universal, all-encompassing, God-entranced.”
Finally, Piper recommended to always be focused on praise, with the theologian telling listeners to “fill your mind and your heart and your mouth with praise.”
“The remedy to not be a cranky, hypercritical misfit is to be full of praise. So fix your eyes on God and the wonders of His creation and redemption, and be filled with praise,” he concluded.
The Christian apologetics website Got Questions described a person with a critical spirit as being someone who “is prone to complaining, seeing the glass as half-empty, ruing unmet expectations, sensing failure (in others more than in oneself), and being judgmental.”
Regarding the issue of overcoming a critical spirit, Got Questions stated that the “condition of our heart is crucial” to dealing with the problem.
“Critical words spring from a critical heart. And a critical heart generally comes from a misunderstanding of God’s grace — either due to pride or a simple lack of information about God’s character and the meaning of salvation,” the website added.
“Only when we understand our depravity apart from God and the depth of His grace will we be able to bestow grace to others. … The better we understand God’s grace, the more gracious we will be with others.”