There is a massive difference between a critical mind and a critical spirit. The former builds up; the latter tears down. Having a critical mind is a terrific thing. It results in healthy self-reflection, learning, and evaluating the why beneath everything one does. Having a critical spirit is a terrible thing. It results in pushing people away, mistrusting everything and everyone, and constantly looking for things to be broken instead of rejoicing in the good things the Lord has done and is doing. Here are five differences between a critical mind and a critical spirit:
1. A critical mind is filled with humility; a critical spirit is filled with hubris.
It takes a humble posture to have a critical mind, a posture that does not assume you have all the answers and is willing to reflect on issues through the lens of the wisdom and experience of others. A critical spirit is filled with pride and wrongly assumes that people who do not hold the same views as you on every single issue are idiots.
2. A critical mind is inquisitive; a critical spirit is indifferent.
A critical mind is curious and inquisitive, always seeking to understand how the truth can be applied and communicated. Having a critical mind does not mean a person changes or compromises his or her view on an important issue or views Truth as relative, but it does mean that one continually evaluates how to place the truth in an ever-changing context. A critical spirit is indifferent to people and context.
3. A critical mind can unite; a critical spirit only divides.
A critical mind can unite people as people gather and discuss important topics with the intent of learning and growing. I am not naively suggesting that a group of people with critical minds will always walks out of the room unified. A critical mind does not guarantee unity but a critical spirit guarantees disunity. When people with a critical spirit are united around something, they are typically united around their disdain and their frustration for something they are against. In time, they turn on one another as they only know how to be at war.
4. A critical mind is expressed with gentleness; a critical spirit with anger.
Those with a critical mind often disagree with others, but they express their disagreement with gentleness or they don’t express it all because they have concluded they don’t want to spend their life expressing disagreement with every single thing! Those with a critical spirit are always angry and always looking for something to express disagreement towards – and their constant cynicism is expressed in anger.
5. A critical mind is content; a critical spirit is bitter.
People with critical spirits are miserable people. They spew words of misery from a miserable place. A critical mind does not have to be proven right every time because their identity is not bound to being right before people. They are content because Christ has made them right before God, therefore they don’t live with angst to prove themselves right on every issue.
God, deliver us from a critical spirit and help us to possess a critical mind.