I had once been praying that Tom and another person would keep their commitment to get together. One morning, Tom told me that he was getting together with that person. What I should have said is something like, “Great! Have a good time.” What I did say was, “Ok. I was wondering if you were going to.” Tom calmly replied, “That was mean spirited.” I said, “I didn’t mean to be mean spirited. I just wondered.”
But then the Lord showed me that Tom was right, because my comment reflected a critical spirit. (I felt he should follow through on his commitment and didn’t think he would.) I asked Tom to forgive me, and he did. But I believe the Lord put those words in Tom’s mouth because they really got my attention. It only took about two minutes for me to go through this process, but it looked like this: First, I saw that my comment was not up-lifting, which meant it was a negative comment. Then I saw that a critical spirit was behind my comment. A critical attitude is, indeed, mean spirited. God, by contrast, looks at people through the eyes of patient compassion, understanding our frailties. The words “mean spirited” jolted me out of my apathy about critical thoughts. I saw how ugly they are. Who am I to judge anyone else when I fall so far short of perfection myself?
Now, there’s a difference between being critical and recognizing evil. It would be a statement of truth to say that Hitler’s actions toward the Jewish people were evil and wrong. But the Hitlers in life also need prayer. Jesus could change even a heart like that if the person wanted Him to.
However, in terms of my daily life, I need to be on guard against a critical spirit because I certainly don’t want to be “mean spirited!” I want to see others through the eyes of compassion, as Jesus does. May He continually help me to do so!