Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Critical Thinker or Critical Spirit?

Mike and I are critical beings. I've blogged about it before. (Now that I re-read it, I sounded rather pompous. I'll try to put on my less pompous self today.) In the previous post, I wrote about how our society can be too credulous. But lately, I've been thinking about how a critical mind can so easily become a critical spirit.

We need critical people. Otherwise, we'd all be effusive supporters of Twilight and The Secret. (Just kidding, I haven't read either.) We also need people whose gifts lie elsewhere than being critical. Otherwise, who would there be to follow my husband's rule when he inevitably dominates the world?

But critical thinking, while good in its pure form, can become ugly. Those of us who tend to be analytical can slowly warp into Mr. Grumpy Grumps. As I thought it over, here are a few things I think are signs that my critical thinking has turned into a critical spirit.

Dismissing people, not ideas
I realize that when I am not simply being a critical thinker, but am having a critical spirit, I tend to dismiss people, rather than their ideas. I think we see this happen a lot in the Christian world. If we disagree with one line of a person's theological thinking, we dismiss the entire person - their service, their ministry, and any other helpful thoughts they might have to offer. I have this problem with books. If there's one line I dislike, I stew on it and read the rest of the book with a chip on my shoulder, closing my mind to any other good things the author might have to offer.

I'm pretty sure that my personal understanding of the world, the Bible and God is not perfect. I'm pretty sure yours isn't either. (Sorry!) We're all fallible, and in retrospect, we can detect the missteps of even the most revered theologians. 

This isn't to say that I should become permissive because we all have faults. It's to say I should be gracious and strive to understand others, rather than practicing a one-strike-you're-out thought policy.

It's about me, not them
Other times when I have a critical spirit, it's even uglier. One word: pride. Rather than focusing on understanding and disassembling thoughts, I become stuck on myself. I am right; they are wrong. Thoughts become personal when our pride is involved, which leads to muddled and biased thinking. 

Sour grapes, not a refreshing peach
The last way I can tell if I'm letting a critical spirit in is simply the fruit. What is growing out of my attitude - sour grapes, or a nice refreshing peach? Truth may be hard, but it is always good. It is never sour or stingy. If I'm sour and stingy, I'm not a harbinger of truth, I'm a critical stickler.

Just a couple things I've been thinking about so that I don't become a Thought Grinch. 

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