Critical spirit – Be gone !

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Friends in Christ, we see in the gospel today, that people brought to Our Lord this man who had a speech impediment, the Greek word is, μογιλάλος, it means he did not speak correctly. But in an instant, Christ cures him. In a moment he was able to speak correctly.
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Physical healings in scripture can always be seen as signs of the spiritual healing that Christ desires for us. Now we may say that our speech is just fine, we don’t need any healing there. But let us ask if this is really true?
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A common lament by people who come to confession, is that they have put-down or criticized someone, a family member or other, and they feel bad about it. Let us speak today of how we can overcome this ‘critical spirit’ that can so easily poison the goodness of our life.
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Fr. Faber says that there are very many moderately good people who think it is just fine to sit around and criticize others; they regard it as evidence of their own superior wisdom. This attitude comes from pride and conceit. The person acts, as if their great knowledge gives them some kind of special duty to analyze everyone else.
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We find fault in others to prove that we are smarter, or that we are better looking, holier, or wealthier than the other. We often want to feel better about ourselves at someone else’s expense. We can also criticize when our expectations are not being met. If people fail to do what we ask, or are not doing what is right. If our own life is not going the way we desire and we are frustrated, we can hide our sadness by finding fault with others.
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The rationalization is always there: ‘But I must say this for the good of his soul.’ ‘’He has to be taught a lesson, or he just won’t learn.’ ‘Don’t you see, I am working for the good of the Church.’
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Those are great rationalizations, but the question is: Is what is being said REALLY going to help the other person? Everyone can notice the difference between kindly advice, and an attack.
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A number of years ago, Dr. David Fink, a psychiatrist, wrote an article called, “Release from Nervous Tension.” From over 10,000 case studies, he discovered that there was a common trait with all his patients who suffered from severe tension. They were habitual fault-finders, constant critics of people around them. Those who did not have this stress in their life, were the least critical. His conclusions were that the habit of fault-finding is a mark of the nervous or the mentally unbalanced. Those who wish to retain good emotional and mental health, should learn to free themselves from a critical attitude.
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People who have the critical spirit are never happy. The reason is, that while we are looking at so many evils in our neighbor, the source of the rot is inside ourselves. St. Josemaria, in his pithy way says: ‘Your own will; your own judgment: that’s what upsets you!’ The critical heart is obsessed with it’s own will, it’s own way, and that is a very lonely position to be in. Scripture says: What causes quarrels and the fights among the brethren? Is it not this: that your passions are at war inside you?
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St. Francis de Sales tells us that if we have a strong opinion on something, we can be critical of those who do not think like us. If we have a dislike for an employee, he can do nothing right, and we never cease finding fault with him; while on the contrary, if we have taken a liking to someone, there is nothing that we will not excuse.
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Some parents cannot tolerate an ugly child no matter how good he may be, but they spoil a beautiful child even when he is behaving badly. Those who are fault-finders, and notice every mistake of others, cannot themselves tolerate a single smidgeon of criticism. They insist on their own rights or opinion, yet they want to see others humble and deferential. We are prepared to complain about our neighbors, but the neighbor must never complain about us.
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I read that some animals have more than one heart. There are people who seem to be the same: a kind and merciful heart for themselves, and a strict and severe heart for others.
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A man felt very bad that he was always criticizing others, he wanted to change. So I suggested: ‘At the end of the day, when you make your examination of conscience, try writing down how many times you criticize each day, keep a record, to see if you can improve. He said, ‘Father, I don’t have that much paper!’
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The person who has spent most of his life criticizing others has done great injury to God’s glory – an endless fountain of putrid discouragement, there to crush anyone who may have thought of seeking God.
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One spiritual writer says, people love to be ‘popes;’ even the dumbest of persons can carve out a tiny papacy for himself. And if he can mix in a little arrogance, he can reign gloriously, with his own little ecumenical council.
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A person who is not very bright criticizes rashly, without even knowing the facts. If on the other hand, the person is highly intelligent, he DOES see the true faults of others, but even more than the truth. He puts things together that have no real connection in the conduct of his neighbor, thinking the worst. He suspects bad motives in others because he has bad motives himself As it is said, ‘For clever men, charity is almost impossible.
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Although anyone can lapse into a critical spirit, the person who has a morose, brooding temperament is raw material for this. The melancholic person will brood over a small incident for weeks, imagining endless devious motives in the other person, finally erupting one day in a flurry of crushing words.
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So how do we fight this bad spirit of fault-finding? St. Francis says, always put yourself in your neighbor’s place and then your comments will be fair; ‘remember,’ he says, we lose nothing by being generous, noble, and courteous.
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The root of critical thoughts is pride. A great aid to pounding down this pride is to convince ourselves that everyone else is better than us. Yes, there are gifts and talents God has given us that he has not given to others, but if we think of our hard heart and crummy thoughts, it is not hard to see that our neighbor is better.
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Christ wants us to see that we are really in this together, not against one another.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about a special virtue that should govern how people relate to each other. He says: ‘It behooves man to maintain a becoming order towards others in both deeds and words. Hence the need of a special virtue, and this virtue is called friendliness. Every man, he says, is naturally every man’s friend by a certain general love; this love is signified by signs of friendship, which we show outwardly, even to those who are strangers.
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Jesus Christ expects us to think well of our neighbor. Let us estimate the amount of evil in the world way too low; let us be naive; naively holy, and presume that even the worst sins are done in ignorance, or with a confused desire for some good; this is the genius of the saints, oblivious to horrors of the world, they were always looking for the good in others.
This is the radiant, energetic faith, that believes that the darkness will always be overcome by the Light.
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The Holy Nun, Mother Maria Kaupas, used to say: ‘Let us leave judging and fault-finding to small minds; be angels of peace, stilling through your gentle words the rancor in another’s heart; what will gain results is only gentleness, so then, why not use it!
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May the Blessed Virgin pray and intercede for us, that our words will always be those worthy of children of God.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Luke]

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