I was doing background work for a Sunday sermon when I spotted this helpful reminder in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary.
Psychologists have another name for this critical spirit, they call it the fundamental attribution error. As Patrick Lencioni notes, while the term sounds rather complex, it is quite simple:
At the heart of the fundamental attribution error is the tendency of human beings to attribute the negative or frustrating behaviors of their colleagues to their intentions and personalities, while attributing their own negative or frustrating behaviors to environmental factors. For instance, if I see a dad at the grocery store scowling at his five-year-old daughter and wagging his finger in her face, I'm likely to conclude that the guy has an anger problem and needs some counseling. If I find myself scowling and wagging my finger at my own five-year-old, I'm likely to conclude that my behavior is caused by my unruly child or that I'm just having a tough day.
Oh, the human condition! Jesus puts it this way:
J. Oswald Sanders counsels us that there are certain attitudes that distract us from our faith in God. Certainly a critical spirit is one of them. He writes, "When we discern that other people are not growing spiritually and allow that discernment to turn to criticism, we block our fellowship with God.
No matter what we call it: the critical attitude, the fundamental attribution error, the speck, or the critical spirit, the results are the same. A critical spirit never helps me to grow nor does it build up the one with whom I am frustrated. So today . . .
- "At the heart of the fundamental attribution . . . " from The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2012. Page 32.
- "When we discern that other people are not growing spiritually . . . " from J. Oswald Sanders, "The Distraction of Contempt" in My Utmost For His Highest." https://utmost.org/the-distraction-of-contempt/. Accessed January 26, 2017.