In a moment of uncommon candor, I responded to a question from an acquaintance (let’s call him Bill), “Yeah, I sometimes react that way, too.” Oops.
He wanted to know more.
Might as well tell him
. I said, “Well, I tend to be … critical. Too critical.” Suddenly, I wanted to vomit the bad stuff out on the carpet (confession is good for the soul, you know). “Bluntly, I’m quick to judge, evaluate, criticize—all to myself, of course—anybody who doesn’t meet common-sense standards, which are really my standards. People who drive too fast or too slow, someone grossly overweight, the guy talking loudly on his cell phone and I judge them—right away. If somebody has a sour look or doesn’t control their rowdy kids, I think, what a loser.’”
Bill simply looked at me, saying nothing. I expected censure for being so censorious.
I told him about an incident the other night, as I drove into a local supermarket parking lot. “First I should say that one of my pet peeves is people who leave their grocery shopping cart … where they unloaded it. They don’t bother to put it in the cart corral; they just get in their car and drive off. What if everybody did that? They are like people who don’t pick up after themselves—selfish and lazy.
“Anyway, as I turned into an open stall, I saw this grocery cart right in front—between me and the SUV this lady was getting into … I cut the engine, hopped out and grabbed the grocery cart—I’ll show her. She saw me coming and her eyes widened. I wheeled the cart beside her SUV and tapped on her window. She rolled her window down and I said, ‘I’ll take your cart and put it where it belongs.’
“She looked at me like I might be dangerous and blurted, ‘No, it’s not my cart.’ I could tell she wasn’t conning me.”
I felt like a real jerk. My attitudes had slipped out, revealing a side of me that wasn’t very pretty. Even if that lady had left the cart blocking the parking stall, it wasn’t a federal offense, for crying out loud.
Bill knows me pretty well so we talked some more. Then he said, “I got an idea that works for me. You know why some people can lose weight and they keep it off; other people—their weight goes like a yo-yo?”
“Sure, they’re disciplined—the ones who keep it off, that is.”
He said, “Yes, but they do it because they keep track of how many calories they’re putting into their face. They stop before they exceed their limit.”
“So how’s that gonna help me?”
Bill said, “Keep track—every day. Count each time you feel critical.” He gave me a grin. “Why not?”
Yeah, why not? I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and got a golf stroke counter. Five bucks and it’s compact enough to carry in my shirt pocket.
Being in church kept my number down on Sunday—only 4 incidents. Monday, 7. Tuesday, not so good—12—the tail-gater behind me, the panel truck that pulled in front of me plus some I collected at home …
Now I’m aware that a spiteful, arrogant attitude percolates close to the surface. You and I know what it really is—the sin nature, growing inside like a fungus. My “Critical Counter” helps but it won’t erase my problem. It simply shows me reality—how many times my self-righteousness makes me a modern-day Pharisee. A common problem? Sure, the Apostle Paul struggled with it—read Romans 7.
Some might say I’m legalistic, trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps. Keeping score. Well, when I wasn’t keeping track, it was easy to slough it off. But when I looked at that poor lady in the SUV, I knew I had a problem.
The best way to defeat a critical spirit is with a thankful heart, which comes from the Lord Jesus.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Th 5:18
My experience showed me how blind I was to my true nature. With God’s help, we can separate ourselves from that which diminishes us—and those around us.
What has helped you in your daily walk?