- Destructive criticism
- including sarcastic or “joking” ones
A Critical, Judgmental Spirit Destroys Others and Ourselves
Our goal is to LIVE the Christian life, not just to have head knowledge of it.
- You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matt. 7:5
- Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12
Insults Deeply Wound Others
Our words have “the power of life and death” according to scripture (Prov. 18:21). What we say matters. There are two primary commands Jesus gives us. The first is that we are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. The second is that we are to love other people as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40). Then Jesus connects the two. We learn that He counts the way we treat other people, even the least of them, as the way we treat Him (Matt. 25:31-46). And in 1 John, we learn that “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
So what we speak to people in our every day lives matters. A lot. Let’s invite God to help us stop using our words as weapons to cut others down and to stop speaking death to people – and even to ourselves.
- Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Pet. 3:9
- Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Prov. 11:12
- A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible. Prov. 12:16
- There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18
Complaining and Negativity Hurt Our Witness for Christ
When we complain and highlight all that is wrong with life and focus on bad things, we reveal a lack of trust in the Lord and unbelief in our hearts. God calls us to live lives of thanksgiving in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). He calls us to focus our minds on Him and on all of the good things and blessings we can find (Phil. 4:8).
One of the things that stirred God’s anger the most against the people of Israel in the wilderness was their tendency to complain and grumble. They complained to Moses, but ultimately, their real complaint was against God. They didn’t believe He would take good care of them. They didn’t believe He was able to provide well for them. They didn’t trust His heart toward them or His plan. They didn’t come to Him with their needs and ask for help humbly and respectfully by faith. They accused God of evil motives and said He must be too weak to help or save them. That was not remotely the case!
Even now for believers in Christ, if we choose to complain and grumble about our lot in life, we hurt our walk with the Lord and we destroy our witness for Him. How can anyone be drawn to Jesus if we are so dissatisfied with Him and we don’t trust Him, ourselves? God is not saying we can’t ask Him for help. We absolutely can! And we can ask others for help, too, when we need to, and it is appropriate. But for believers in Christ, there is no room in our lives for complaining. We are to live lives of faith. Faith doesn’t complain – it trust God and seeks Him, inviting Him into the situation to do something glorious.
We also need to remember that God intends to use our trials to help us grow in our faith and spiritual maturity. The thing I am complaining about may be the answer to my prayers that God has sent to help me grow. Not that we should try to find suffering or put ourselves in suffering. But as a believer, I should have a totally different outlook on annoying and difficult things. They may be spiritual tests. They may be discipline for me to grow in my faith. They may be opportunities for God to do something amazing. In Christ, I can learn to count even my trials as joy. I can keep an eternal perspective rather than get wrapped up in the moment.
- Nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 1 Cor. 10:10
- Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation,among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life. Phil. 2:14-16
- Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9
- Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Pet. 4:9
Arguing Is Ineffective, Detrimental, and Unnecessary, for a Believer
We can get our points across and have a voice, especially as we share things we know will honor and please the Lord. We can share the truth in love, using God’s wisdom and discernment. We can speak up against things that are wrong in God’s eyes. And we can do all of this without being argumentative, fighting, or involving sinful anger – IF we act in the power of the Spirit of God.
- A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Prov. 15:1
- Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 2 Tim. 2:23-24
- But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
- Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titus 3:1-2
The Ultimate Goal
- We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor. 10:5
- Walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. Gal. 5:16
Pray with Me
Share Your Experience!
- Complaining VS Informing
- If a Friend Complains, Shouldn’t I Commiserate?
- 8 Practical Tips to Put the Brakes on Complaining
- If I Stop the Negative Talk – What on Earth Will I Talk about?
- What Is an Insult? (And what is not an insult?)
- My Response to Insults Reveals a Lot about My Character
- If I Insult People, I Need a Spiritual Check Up
I’m thrilled to join you in this! When I read the post I too was thinking it was a fantastic way to get closer to being who I want to be. I pray all who try this meet with success. Thank you!
Happily Gave Up,
I’m so glad you are joining us! Thank you for praying for everyone. Much love!
With this fast in mind, how is the best way to react when a close friend or relative comes to me with complaints, for example regarding feeling tired, stressed or overworked?
I usually listen, show empathy and offer complaints of my own like “I know what you’re going through. I’m exhausted these days as well. I have so many things to do and it’s hard to keep up”.
I do that to show that we are in the same boat. I would feel awkward to not join in with a few of my own complaints because I don’t want them to think that I’m showing off that my life is perfect or something. I don’t ever want to come across as insensitive or unsympathetic.
What would you recommend?
This is a great question. I would encourage us to empathize, “Oh, I am so sorry you are feeling X. That sounds rough.” But then we do not need to commiserate by complaining ourselves. It’s not insensitive at all to simply share sympathy/empathy.
And then, you can choose to redirect the topic to something more positive, if you would like.
Thank you ????
You are most welcome. I’m very excited to share this experience together. <3
I want to make the change. Thank you for inviting us to join in this fast. Let’s go!
Yay! So excited you are joining! Let me know how it goes! <3
Yes perfect timing for me too. Husband doesn’t want to talk to me because I complain and vent negatively to him.
This does sound like really good timing. Let me know how you are doing and if you need any encouragement or prayer. <3
I’m starting this fast today. Very inspiring for me. The post a few days ago has not left my thoughts; hard to describe it’s impact in words.
Yes, that one wife’s story is the start of something BIG! I am so excited about all that God is about to do in so many lives! WOOHOO! Thanks for joining with us in the fast. <3
April, this post has so much truth in it which cuts at my soul and reminds me of where I keep on falling short. I just can’t even imagine having the ability to fast from my negative, death-giving words for even a day, let alone 3 weeks.
I don’t feel like I could even start this, because as soon as one of my kids does x,y or z, there I will go and react to them. Not 100% of the time, but toooo many times.
What do I do when I forget I’m supposed to fasting from these words and I lash out again?
When I began my journey 10 years ago, I often snapped at my husband and kids in anger and frustration. I was so impatient. I, too, mostly spoke negative words of death. For a while, I got pretty quiet, because I realized most of the things I wanted to say were hurtful. I am assuming you have a relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?
If you do, He can absolutely transform your heart, mind, and spirit as you yield to His Lordship.
Then, you just take a day at a time. Or a minute at a time. And you begin to be aware of your thoughts, motives, words, and actions. And you invite God to change you. One thing I did, was I started practicing using a friendly tone of voice and recording myself saying things in a pleasant way.
At first, I would also purposely whisper to the kids, or even sing what I wanted to say to them, when I wanted to raise my voice. Just to break my old bad habit.
And if I messed up, I would repent to them and to the Lord. “You know what? I just used words and a tone of voice that do not represent the kind of woman/wife/mom I want to be. I apologize. Please forgive me. Let me try that again in a respectful way.”
If I want my kids to speak respectfully to me, to their dad, and to each other. I have to be the one to model this. I have to look at the excuses I have been using to justify my own lack of self-control, bad temper, and harshness. And I have to realize that God cares very much about my motives, attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. My two highest callings are to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love others with His love.
The way I treat people almost always matters more – in light of eternity – than whatever the little issue at hand may be.
I also began to remember that Jesus counts the way I treat others as the way I treat Him. And I began to picture Him being there behind my husband and children when I would speak to them. Of course, He is there and He does see how I treat them. And He will hold me accountable for this.
Some of my videos on this topic:
The Tone of Voice Challenge
The Smiling Challenge
This challenge is fascinating!
So far, for me, it seems about 1/3 conversations involve someone complaining – whether about the weather, traffic, administration, other people, the government, you name it – this is a clearly a habit for a lot of us! And I have goofed up a few times…bad habits are like weeds…they keep trying to come back.
Here are some of the counters to complaining I have used: “Well, at least we made it here, right?” Or, “I guess it could be worse – at least we have heat!” Or, when I hear complaining about the negative sides of people, which are not lies about them, but are indeed their shortcomings, I say, “God bless him/her. I feel sorry for him/her.” Other times I just stay silent and listen.
I think some people will just quit talking to me as much, but that is OK. I need to change. I hope I can keep learning how to be a good friend/co-worker, etc., who is humble, simple, and loving. Praying for all of us trying to live like Jesus wants us to live.
Right now my husband is a little upset with me because I told him I was uncomfortable
in a conversation I witnessed last night… which was complaining about a relative who was not present and bringing up a lot of his faults. I said, “It is hard to love (this relative) when he behaves badly, but we are still called to love him.”
I don’t want to get “preachy” with anyone, but I also can’t stay completely silent either. Holy Spirit, please give us wisdom, the words, the tone, the volume, the timing, everything.
You know what? It is a very bad habit for many, many people. And you are right, that if you stop complaining, too, there are some people who won’t talk with you as much, anymore.
Thank you for sharing some of the responses you have been using. Love that!
It gets more tricky when the other person is gossiping, because we are not to participate in that. And there are times we may have to respectfully ask people to stop sharing or that we have to excuse ourselves from certain conversations.
Yes! May the Lord give us the wisdom we need to navigate these tricky situations with grace, godliness, love, and holiness. Without preaching or nagging. But may we have the Spirit’s prompting and wisdom about how to properly respond and to help us know when to stay silent and pray and when to speak the truth in love against sin.
Much love! And thank you very much for sharing.
Hi April. I’ve been following your blog for about 6-7 years now. I still struggling in this area. Every time I set out to do better I fall into the same habits. EsoecEspec challenging because my husband and I relate in large part through humor and sarcasm. That was fine in the beginning when it was done with love and good intentions but of course it has evolved into a less than desirable way to communicate. Do you have any action steps for us? What will you be doing daily to make sure you follow through? Are their passages you will be reading? A devotional? I had thought about doing the Respect Dare along side this to give me steps to follow. Any advice aoorecappre.
I have been seeking to live this way for about 10 years now. But during these 3 weeks, I am looking even more intently into the things I say and the motives behind what I share. I am inviting God to continue to refine and purify my motives and words. I am looking specifically at the areas I know are my greatest temptations.
All of the linked articles will be a blessing, I believe. So you could read one – or several – each day.
I love the idea of journalling. (I do this!) It helps to keep us accountable and is a great place to write out our thoughts and to write out prayers.
I would encourage everyone to be in the Word every day and to have a time set aside for prayer and confession of sin, as well as praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
I find that it is important to replace negative thinking and negative words with something positive. So I love to focus on praise songs, writing out lists of things I am thankful for, and focusing on Philippians 4:8 things – good things.
I love The Respect Dare. That would also be a great thing to do in tandem with this fast. I have a 40 day companion guide to The Respect Dare on my blog, actually, that I did in conjunction with Nina Roesner. You are welcome to search my blog for “The Respect Dare.”
Also, my posts about respect and disrespect on my blog are super helpful. As well as the smiling challenge and the tone of voice challenge.
And I have some videos on my Youtube channel about respect, disrespect, non-verbal disrespect, asking for things respectfully, etc… that also are helpful.
You can also check out the posts I am linking to the other posts on this subject over the past week. And the verses in the Bible about complaining are a great place to focus, as well.
I have a post about sarcasm and one about humor.
I also have a post about handling insults, criticisms, and rebukes, that may be a blessing.
If I notice that I stumble, I immediately repent to the Lord, and to the person (if appropriate). And invite God to empower me to use my words for His glory.
It can also be helpful to have an accountability partner – a woman – who maybe is a prayer partner. Someone who also wants to do the challenge.
Great question! I hope this helps. <3
This is something I do desperately want the Lord to change in me. I have recently moved across the country with my autistic son and my words have been so impatient and snappy with my husband. I want to honor him with my attitude instead of arguing and complaining all the time. I see the damage my sin is doing and I feel powerless to stop it. I’m begging God to take away this sin!
Thank you for your posts❤️
This is something we ALL need God’s help with every day. We sure can’t do it in our own power. I’m so thankful God is able and willing to help us as we trust Him and invite Him to have control over our thoughts and words. The posts for the next 3 weeks after this one may be a blessing, too.
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