A friend of mine recently expressed her sorrow over being a critical person. I did not see her in that way. What I saw was a woman of keen discernment. She may have had moments when she operated in criticalness, but by and large, she was picking up on things in the spirit that she needed to know for her own safety and for the safety of those she ministers to.
Many Christians struggle with being critical, or with thinking they are. It is important not to judge others, but if we are so afraid of judging that we are not allowing ourselves to hear clear warnings prompted by the Holy Spirit, we are missing out on important guidance from the Lord.
True discernment is deeper than merely observing others’ faults. It is understanding of what is really going on, of motives behind actions, of heart attitudes.
There are two types of discernment – the natural and the spiritual. Even those who are not Christians can have a natural discernment gift. We say they are astute, and that no one can pull the wool over their eyes. They tend to be analytical, understand how people tick, and are able to work well with others as a result.
God can impart to us a higher level of discernment as well. People who operate in spiritual discernment will sometimes feel an uncomfortableness or an inner warning that something is not right about a person or situation. God may be giving them discernment for the sake of protecting the local body of Christ from hidden evil. God does not give us discernment about wrong in another person merely so that we can have inside information. It is to help the person, or to protect ourselves or the local church.
There is a flip side to every weakness, and so it is with criticalness and discernment. A character flaw is nothing more than a God-given character strength that has been marred by our fallen, sinful nature. When sin entered the world, it corrupted the good things that God had placed within mankind. God wants to restore us by remaking our flaws into the strengths they were originally intended to be. For instance, stubbornness made positive becomes persistence or tenacity. Bossiness, when trained and modified with tact and a motive of servanthood, becomes excellent leadership. Criticalness is the peculiar flaw of those whom God has gifted in discernment. Although discerning people may always struggle to some degree with judging others, God’s redemptive plan is to make something useful and powerful for His kingdom out of what was once a weakness.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to tell the difference between criticalness and discernment.
This article is based on an excerpt from Lee Ann’s book, River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus, an adult Bible/character study, suitable for use by the individual or as part of a group study. For more info and sample pages, please visit our web site.