Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Do You Have the Syndrome of an Inappropriate Critical Spirit?

The syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion or SIADH is an issue that Lori and I became all too familiar with the past three days. After experiencing some of the best health weeks Lori has had in years, ten days ago Lori began feeling burning pain in her legs that moved up to her neck, and then, as it often does, her stomach became inflamed. Things got so bad that the pain reached a 10 out of 10 at one point and she could not walk well so we headed for the emergency room.

It only took about an hour to get into an ER bed, and another ninety minutes later to discover that Lori had a sodium level of 110, with critical considered between 110-130. She got about as low as you can get, although I find it a bit ironic that more people die of sodium levels between 120-130 than they do down at 110. The reason is that although sodium levels are critical in the body, it is really the underlying cause of the low sodium that kills more than the low sodium itself.  In Lori’s case, the reason for the low sodium is most likely the pain and nausea she was experiencing combined with a potentially faulty pituitary that still seems to be running like the energizer bunny in spite of being smashed by a walnut-sized tumor that has been hit with many packets of radiation. The multiple doctors we went to to get an opinion on her Cyber Knife therapy all said that the pituitary will die off in less than a year, and the doctor we chose was the one who gave us hope by saying, “I don’t think it will die. I don’t plan on hitting it with radiation” and he mathematically programmed into the huge robot x-ray to miss the pituitary by just 3-4 mm away from the tumor behind her nose at the base of the brain. Now two years later the little vital gland is still working.

You are somewhat up to date and Lori is home and safe, taking salt tablets daily, and the pain has been kicked down to a 2-3 with all the IV pain killers she was on. But this is just the bridge to what I really want to address today.

Lori and I were talking about another syndrome which is quickly incipient as it creeps up on a person ever so gradually, like the loss of sodium in the body. I have named this syndrome SIACS, or Syndrome of an Inappropriate Critical Spirit. Do you realize that Christians are amongst the most critical people in the world? And worse yet, it seems that Christian wives are often hypercritical of their husbands compared to unbelievers and I think I know some reasons why. One reason may be that unbelievers do not hold to the high standards of Christianity. So take an issue like their husbands look at porn and they might laugh, or participate in it with him. Someone once wrote that Christian men are far more addicted to porn than unbelievers, yet no unbeliever has the struggle because they don’t have to give it up. It's never their greatest battle as they just give in to it. Beyond this, I think unbelievers often have much lower expectations for a spouse in marriage. They are looking for more of a “best friend with privileges” relationship than the Biblical ideal of a “oneflesh” marriage.

For many women, of course not all, their biggest battle seems to be on two fronts: the battle for control, and the battle with the tongue.  A critical spouse can really dominate the other spouse with their words, and husbands are no exception to this. When one spouse can keep the other spouse on edge with their critical words, they can be in control of the relationship. I spent too many years of my marriage trying to avoid the critical words of my wife, and she spent too many years listening to me fire off a series of unkind remarks when I felt I was under her critical scrutiny. Neither of us were enjoying the other because we suffered from SIASC. Interesting, neither of us were critical people, except towards each other. How can it be that the person we say we love the most in the whole world we can be most critical of?

Just like with Lori’s disease there can be a number of underlying reasons why someone might have a critical or hypercritical spirit. You know the people I am talking about, but far too often these people don’t realize that they themselves are critical people. Ask yourself these questions concerning how you deal with your spouse, your family, your co-workers, and friends:

Do you give out more than 2-3 critical comments a week?
Are your critical comments intended to be helpful and loving, or cutting and unkind?
Do you feel an uncontrollable urge at times to regularly correct people? {Of course you believe it is for their benefit!}
Do you find yourself overlooking smaller offenses or do you need to correct them all, or at least make a comment about the offense to insure the person that Critical Cathy is watching?

"Do you have to put so much butter on your toast?"
"Isn’t that the third time you have had ice cream this week?"
"When is your pig’s sty of an office going to be cleaned up?"
"What happened to the man who used to love to stay in shape? Did I lose him to Fox Sports?"
"You never help around the home … never show me affection… and you’re lazy!"

One sure way of knowing that you have a critical or controlling nature is that once you have given the critical comment, which at first may be accurate, or even helpful, but now you are like a dog with a rag in its mouth. You will pull on that rag mercilessly until you get the other person to relent, or better yet until they give you an apology. Do you find your spouse regularly crawling back to apologize to you to get the relationship back on track? Bingo! You probably have SIACS.

One of the worst symptoms of SIACS is that it excretes the hormone IHTBR {I have to be right}. You can't just say something once and drop it. No, you know better than your spouse, and even if he or she has  a four year graduate degree in the subject matter, you have to be right about the discussion. The crazy thing is that these people are often right, but they fail to understand that just because they are right does not mean that they can make other’s live their way of life. Worse yet is they who know it all who don't practice what they preach. This IHTBR hormone results in critical words that are intended to manipulate and control so that they can get their way. The silliest of things can be a battle for supremacy over your spouse, or others.

As you can see, SIASC is a disease process, and there are few who are immune to excreting some of this critical hormone. We need some of the hormone to have healthy relationships as we need to be a little critical of another person we love with healthy admonistions for their own good. Healthy criticism should be seen as our best friend in that we can only change the things we are aware of. If I am unaware that I am a critical person, I can never change it. So someone has to love me enough to come along side of me and gently admonish me, and if that doesn’t work, maybe rebuke will. Both these cures are Biblical, so don’t believe that we are never to give appropriate feedback. But there is a healthy range, and that range should be in proper balance, just as sodium is to water in the blood to keep the cells and electrical system properly functioning. 

It is said that the healthy balance of kind and uplifting words to critical comments should be 10 to 1. How are you doing with that? Does your spouse get 10 kind remarks for each negative remark you give? Now I will offer that because 93% of communications is said to be non-verbal; every big smile you give, every kind touch, and every kind deed you do for your spouse gets counted as a positive to balance out the one negative. Yet remember every cross look, every frown, and every unthoughtful deed you do gets counted as a negative.

So how diseased are you? How much of an Inappropriate Critical Spirit do you have towards your spouse and others? Lori and I may be wrong, but we believe we are seeing an epidemic of SIASC amongst Christian women, and we tend to see it often go into a hyper state of criticism as some get older. We have no scientific proof of this, and a Google search shows no research on this topic, so we are only talking about our limited experience in coaching relationships. Don’t shoot us for sharing our observations, but if you have a severe case of SIASC, I know you won’t be able to stop yourself from being critical over this post. You might be one who even after we give you an answer you don’t like, you will smack us again with another comment, and if we keep responding, you will keep up the criticisms.

What we believe is that the usual causes of SIASC are selfishness, an ungrateful heart, and sometimes jealousy. But the most common root of a hypercritical spirit is bitterness. Something happened in the past where the person got hurt and now their hormone secreting gland sends out the inappropriate signal every time they feel a similar pain, even when the pains are completely disassociated. The last time Lori went into the ER twice for low sodium was after her second brain tumor operation, yet now we find the tumor is not the main cause, but instead a massive amount of pain and nausea will trigger her pituitary to secrete the ADH signaling hormone and tell her kidneys to hold water and expel sodium. Finding out the root of the problem is key to solving it.

A godly husband can try to appropriately correct his wife only to have her feel the sting of criticism she got as a child from a parent, or from a bad set of friends, and then turn into a hurt puppy who snaps, bites and whimpers until he comes with his tail between his legs and apologizes to get the relationship back on track. Is that not what husbands are to do? Suck it up and own it so that the wife can feel better and everything go on happily ever after?  And I am not saying that sometimes husbands do not owe their wife a big apology when they do wrong. But if they find themselves regularly apologizing because she is hurt, they need to analyze if they indeed are wrong, or does my spouse need her SIASC cured.

Bitterness is an awful sin that once it takes root it is almost impossible to uproot without going into the ER and ICU. Once hurt, the SIASC is flowing profusely, yet all the while the person themselves seems above it all. They can go on and on with one critical comment after another, leading the gossip train into a path of destruction, and yet they are convinced that they themselves had nothing but good intentions. You see this many times in the workplace where the biggest gossiper is the one who is hypercritical in private one-on-one talks and then you have a team meeting and they act as if others should be more positive, but not them. They have reached critical levels of SIASC and without the Great Physician's healing power, they are doomed to destroy their lives and the relationships around them.

This post is simply intended to get the reader to think about their own life and see if they have a good balance of critical comments to kind remarks, smiles and good deeds; or if they are in a critically diseased state. If you can honestly look at your life and say that you are not regularly critical of anyone, then you are living a healthy Christian life. If you find you are critical of just one or two people in your life, ask yourself where the root of bitterness began and seek the Lord’s help, along with your spouse’s help to work back through things to come to some good conclusions. Ideally, you can forgive and let the bitterness go, moving forward towards a healthy set of relationships.

If you are one of those who needs intensive care and you are hypercritical every day, and the littlest of things sets off your mouth to inflict criticism or pain with cutting words, then realize that you need to run to the emergency room before it is too late. Although we know it is never too late for healing from the Great Physician, we also know that those who carry such bad fleshly habits into their later years in life tend to find those habits exacerbated five and ten times worse than when they were younger. If you are critical now, no one will want to be around you when you are in your seventies. Your disease will damage your nerves and brain cells to the point where you become a dipping faucet of negativity. It’s the nature of any sin left unchecked that it will own us.

Let us thank the Lord that He has given us the gift of a New Life, so we may be dead to sin and alive to Christ Jesus our Lord. But there is one catch if you want to experience your New Life here on earth before you get to heaven, and that is that you must reach out and grab a hold of it by faith. If you doubt that you can be cured of your sins, or your critical nature, then barring an extra miracle, God may allow you to suffer the consequences of your lack of faith. He promises that EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness are right at our finger tips, and yet to experience a God filled life we must simply believe on His promises. Oh yes, He grants us to experience many of His promises even when we lack faith, but His desire is that we would grow up, and put on the New Man, and walk in His ways and promises so that we can participate with His Spirit in the mighty work that He wants to do in our lives. Let’s do as He says and put off being critical of others and instead say and do only those things that build up and are kind to our spouse, and those who are in the body of Christ. 

The only hormone that can properly regulate SIACS is an abundance of thanksgiving coursing through our thoughts and words. Let’s carry our thankful spirit to our friends, family and workplace so that all may see that the Spirit of the living God is regulating our lifeblood, and controlling our lives. If He lives in us, how can we be critical of others, especially our spouse?

Put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness… Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:24, 29-32