If the flip side of criticalness is discernment, how can we tell the difference between the two? There is nothing wrong with seeing a real flaw in someone else. This is just reality at work. We observe the ways people act, and sometimes wrong motives are very obvious. It is what we do with what we see that makes the difference.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I love the person any less because of what I see in him?
2. Do I take a secret pleasure in seeing this fault in him?
3. Do I feel superiority or scorn towards him?
4. Do I have a desire to point out his fault to others? (Love covers sin.)
5. Am I eager to see God “punish” him?
6. Do I write him off as unworthy of any useful place in ministry?
These and other negative feelings about people are strong indications of a judging heart. The discernment may in itself be correct, but, if we harbor negative attitudes toward people in our hearts, we have crossed over the fine line into criticalness.
God does not give us permission to judge our brothers and sisters. Finding their flaws is His job, and He doesn’t deal with them in the same way we would. We tend to want to slap people for the things we see in them that aren’t quite right. God wants, rather, to whittle on them to change their flaws into strengths.
Sometimes we judge others because we live by a certain set of standards, and we assume everyone else knows and should live by the same code. God does have standards spelled out in the Bible, but how we interpret the ins and outs of applying them depends somewhat on our personality, the way we think, and the family culture in which we grew up. In addition, when we see other people doing things that we feel are wrong, we need to remember that God doesn’t convict us all of the same things at the same time in our lives. We must extend grace toward those who have different standards than we do. God will work out their realization of what needs changing inside of them in His own good time.
The Christian life is not living according to a set of rules. Real Christianity is fueled by a yearning to have God’s innocent, pure heart. If we can grasp the difference between these two mindsets, we will be more likely to view others with mercy, rather than judgment.
When we find ourselves responding with sorrow over others’ failings, a loving desire to pray for change in them, or a desire to help them overcome in any way that we can, we are exhibiting a right attitude. We who struggle with criticalness can take heart in knowing that God is actively moving us into giftedness in discernment, as long as we yield ourselves in humility to His reforming hand.
Previous: Criticalness or Discernment? (Part 1)
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.