Nothing in life is completely safe from trouble. This is true for everything valuable to us, including our friendships. When God blesses us with happy relationships, Satan seeks to introduce a critical spirit designed to destroy them with arguing, bickering, and angry words. Our words hold great power; they can either bring a dead relationship back to life or bury it completely.
Most people don’t realize the impact their words have on others. Careless speech can hurt and spoil a close friendship that has lasted for decades. Speaking in a moment of anger can cause long-lasting resentment that drives people apart, which is why practicing self-control during a disagreement can keep a heated exchange from boiling over. “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21, MSG).
When tempers flare, it can be easy to say the first thing that comes to mind. The problem is that whatever we allow to slip out is probably something we shouldn’t say. When we’re tempted to judge and criticize, sometimes the wisest thing to say is nothing at all. “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (Proverbs 10:19, NLT). What grieves the Holy Spirit is when we hurt each other by sinning through thoughtless speech.
The spirit of criticism causes us to focus so much on our own imperfections that we project them onto another person. This leads us to point out the flaws in them and tear them down, instead of edifying and building them up as we’re instructed to do. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29, NKJV). This negative, evil spirit causes anger and resentment; it’s sneaky and can blindside people who don’t have the spiritual discernment to detect it. We defeat it by mindfully applying the Word of God when a critical spirit shows up.
None of us are perfect; overlooking others’ shortcomings encourages them to overlook ours. The spirits of mercy and grace are much stronger than the spirit of criticism. During His ministry, Jesus had strong words about a judgmental attitude that is so easy to slip into. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-4, NLT). We can be thankful that when Jesus went to the cross and took all our judgment that we deserved onto His body, He defeated the spirit of criticism.
Criticizing and judging others isn’t good for our spiritual growth or development. As students of grace, it’s in our best interest to learn from Jesus, our master teacher. “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Romans 14:13, NKJV). Jesus had plenty of opportunity to criticize and judge others, but instead showed them love, kindness, and forgiveness. Following His example allows us to enjoy the happy relationships that make life fulfilling.