From A Jane Austen Devotional
A Critical Spirit
[Mary Crawford:] “Ay, you have been brought up to it. It was no part of my education; and the only dose I ever had, being administered by not the first favourite in the world, has made me consider improvements as the greatest of nuisances. Three years ago the Admiral, my honoured uncle, bought a cottage at Twickenham for us all to spend our summers in; and my aunt and I went down to it quite in raptures; but it being excessively pretty, it was soon found necessary to be improved, and for three months we were all dirt and confusion, without a gravel walk to step on, or a bench fit for use. I would have everything as complete as possible in the country, shrubberies and flower-gardens, and rustic seats innumerable: but it must all be done without my care. Henry is different; he loves to be doing.”
Edmund was sorry to hear Miss Crawford, whom he was much disposed to admire, speak so freely of her uncle. It did not suit his sense of propriety, and he was silenced, till induced by further smiles and liveliness to put the matter by for the present.
—From Mansfield Park
Herein lies an early hint of Mary Crawford’s critical spirit. Her quickness to speak harshly of her uncle, the Admiral, reveals her quick-to-judge nature—a failing that does not escape Edmund’s notice, even though he is already disposed to think the best about Mary.
A critical spirit tears others down in order to build oneself up. In Mary, this habit is seen over and over, though no one but Fanny seems to be aware of it. This is because Mary makes full use of disarming devices—laughter, pretty speeches, and lively chatter—that charm her listeners into thinking her cattiness innocent. Fanny alone sees the danger, and worries for Edmund’s heart.
Make no mistake: when we judge others and voice those opinions, it is borne of self-interest—we want to feel better about ourselves. But the Bible makes very clear that God alone holds the right to judgment: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls” (Romans 14:4). When we let criticism pass our lips, we’re choosing to play God in a way that does not honor Him or invite His Spirit to work in our lives.
Next time a harsh criticism comes to your mind, defuse it in this way: by recalling the grace you have been shown— and that you have been spared through Christ. Choose to think and speak words of mercy instead, just as God chose to demonstrate toward you.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”–Matthew 7:1
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