Fasting from a Critical Spirit

“He who speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure for ever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” Proverbs 12.17-19

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4.29-30

“So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3.5-13


A friend of mine recently said he believed the Lord was calling him to fast from a critical spirit. This instruction came as a result of reading Catherine Marshall and her story of being challenged by the Lord to do the same thing.

The Brindley family has a tradition. We call it the “eighty twenty principle.” Basically, it is the conviction that we only need to say twenty percent of what we think we need to say. A full eighty percent of the words we speak could, in fact, be left out. Our relationships would not suffer from the absence of those words. As a matter of fact, they would almost certainly benefit. What is more, the twenty percent needs to issue from a humble and contrite heart as much as possible. Then speak.

Much of the eighty percent falls into the category of words that issue from a “critical spirit” – a heart that is not right – and, therefore, need to go unsaid or wait to be said when they can issue with integrity from a humble and contrite heart.

Cuts down on the chatter and the arguments and the wounded hearts.

As with so much in the Christian life, simple but not easy.

There is a difference, therefore, between speaking the truth in simple, clear, and direct terms with profound love and speaking with a critical spirit.

I invite you to read and reflect deeply on this challenge.

There are, obviously, many Scriptural passages we could site. It goes without saying that we need to do our Bible reading on the subject ! ! !

For the purpose of deepening our reflection on the Scriptures, however, I invite you to share extra-biblical quotes that reiterate and deepen our commitment to this challenge.

The quotes I shared with my friend follow separated by asterisks.


Fr. Thomas


We Christians need to pray for everyone, and especially all those who have deviated from the faith. The grace of God preserves the baptized as pure gold. Though he be covered with rubbish, filth, and impurity, he is gold all the same. Suddenly peace of soul will manifest in the man. It is pleasant for him, good, but he does not know from where such a peaceful breath of air came to him, and when it vanishes, he does not know to where it departed. This is the Holy Spirit; this grace of God consoles, soothes, and comforts a man, often through the prayers for him by all of the church or through the prayers of spiritual people.

St. Rachel of Borodino


By accepting a suspicion against the neighbor, by saying, ‘What does it matter if I put in a word about my suspicion? What does it matter if I find out what my brother is saying or what a guest is doing?’ the mind begins to forget about its own sins and to talk idly about his neighbor, speaking evil against him, despising him, and from this he falls into the very thing he condemns. Because we become careless about our own faults and do not lament our own death, we lose the power to correct ourselves and we are always at work on our neighbor.

St. Dorotheos of Gaza


Each person must bear the weaknesses of others. Who is perfect? Who can boast that he has kept his heart undefiled? Hence, we are all sick, and whoever condemns his brother does not perceive that he himself is sick, because a sick person does not condemn another sick person…. Love, endure, overlook, do not get angry, do not flare up, forgive one another, so that you resemble our Christ and are counted worthy to be near Him in His Kingdom. My children avoid condemnation—it is a very great sin. God is greatly saddened when we condemn and loathe people. Let us concern ourselves only with our own faults—for these we should feel pain. Let us condemn ourselves and then we shall find mercy and grace from God.

Elder Ephraim


When anyone is disturbed or saddened under the pretext of a good and soul-profiting matter, and is angered against his neighbour, it is evident that this is not according to God: for everything that is of God is peaceful and useful and leads a man to humility and to judging himself.

St. Barsanuphius the Great


Do we forgive our neighbors their trespasses? God also forgives us in His mercy. Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbors, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness, then, of your sins or unforgiveness, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself, man. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how terrible it is.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk


A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others, he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent, that is, he says nothing that is not profitable.

Abba Pimen


The Holy Eucharist is the first, most important, and greatest miracle of Christ. All the other Gospel miracles are secondary. How could we not call the greatest miracle the fact that simple bread and wine were once transformed by the Lord into His very Body and His very Blood, and then have continued to be transformed for nearly two thousand years by the prayers of priests, who are but simple human beings? And what is more, this mystery has continued to effect a miraculous change in those people who communicate of the Divine Mysteries with faith and humility.

St. Ambrose of Optina


I have heard some people speak ill of their neighbour and have rebuked them. To defend themselves, these evildoers have answered: “We are saying these things out of charity and concern!” However, I have replied: “Stop practising a charity like that or you will be accusing of deceit the one who said: ‘Whoever slanders his neighbour in secret, him will I destroy,’ (Ps 101[100].5). If you love him – as you claim – pray for him in secret and don’t make a mock of the man. This is the way of loving that pleases the Lord; don’t lose sight of it and you will take the greatest care not to judge sinners. Judas was of the number of the apostles and the thief was among the criminals but, in an instant, what an astonishing change!…”

So reply to anyone who speaks evil of his neighbor to you: “Stop, brother! I myself fall into the most serious faults every day; how could I now condemn this man?” Thus you will make a twofold gain: you will heal yourself and heal your neighbor. Not judging is a shortcut towards the forgiveness of sins, if this saying is true: “Do not judge and you will not be judged”… Some people have committed grave faults in the sight of everyone but, in secret, have carried out the greatest acts of virtue. Thus their detractors have been mistaken by focussing only on the smoke without seeing the sun…

Those who are hastily censorious and severe fall into this delusion because they don’t keep the memory and constant care of their own sins before them… Judging others is shamelessly to usurp a divine prerogative; condemning them is to bring down our own souls… Just as a good grape-picker eats the grapes that are ripe and does not pick those that are green, so a watchful and sensible soul carefully takes note of all the virtues he sees in others; but it is the stupid man who keeps an eye on their faults and failings.

St. John Climacus


“The disciple is not above his master.” Why do you judge when the Master does not yet judge? For he did not come to judge the world, but to have mercy on it. If we hear it in this sense, the word of Christ becomes: “If I don’t judge, don’t you judge either, you who are my disciple. It is possible that you are guilty of more serious faults than the person you are judging. How great will be your shame when you become aware of this!”

The Lord teaches us the same thing in the parable when he says: “Why look at the speck in your brother’s eye?” He convinces us by means of irrefutable arguments not to want to judge the others and rather to search our own hearts. Then he asks us to free ourselves from the passions that are installed there by asking God for that grace. Because it is he who heals the broken-hearted and who rescues us from our spiritual illnesses. For if the sins that overwhelm you are greater and more serious than those of the others, why do you reproach them without worrying about your own?

All who want to live piously, and above all those who have the responsibility to teach others, will necessarily profit from this precept. If they are virtuous and temperate, giving an example of evangelical life by their actions, they will reprimand with gentleness those who have not yet resolved to act similarly.

St. Cyril of Alexandria


Let us then not judge others, neither have your eyes on those that take life carelessly, but upon Jesus; from Him let us take our model. Was it I who gave you what you possess? Was it I who redeemed you, that you should look up to me? It is Another who has placed all these things before you. Why turn from the Master and look to your follow servant? Have you not heard Him say: ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.’ (Matt. 11.29)? And again: ‘Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister… And again, ‘Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Matt. 20.26, 28). And yet again, let you should take some offence at your fellow servants who are idle and cut yourself off from them, He says, ‘For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you’ (John 13.15)… Why, O Christian, must you always look to what is outside? Why look to others? If you must look at others, look to those who are worthy of your regard: men that are just and upright, whose whole life is lived according to the lay of God, not to those who are breaking it and live unworthily. For if you look to these last you will draw from them only much that is evil and fall into indifference to good, and into vanity, and you will be critical of others. But if you turn your attention to those whose lives are worthy, towards humility, towards loving earnestness, to compunction, you will prepare for yourself a multitude of good things. Hearken to what was said of the Pharisee who despised others, who were upright men, and saw only the sinner (Luke 18.11). Hearken and take warning! Behold how admirable David was in reverencing the just who went before him: ‘I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner as all my fathers were’ (Ps. 38.13). For, turning away from sinners, he and others like him regarded only men that were conspicuous for the worthy lives. You should to the same, For your are not to sit as judge over the crimes of others. You are commanded to judge yourself, not others: ‘For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord’ (1 Cor. 11.32, 33). But you have perverted the right order of things when you exact no account from yourself for your own sins, great and small, but instead search carefully into the sins of others. Make an end of this, and putting from us this perversion of right order, let us set up a tribunal within ourselves and become in it the accuser, the judge, and the punisher of our own crimes. If you are still eager to investigate that which others may have done, then search not into their sins but into their good actions, so that from the memory of our won evil-doing, and from the desire to imitate their good lives (and from the presence of an incorruptible Judge, each day goading the conscience onwards as with a spur), we shall become more humble, and more earnest, and reach at length the joy of eternal happiness through the grace and mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be honor and glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

St. John Chrysostom


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