Q: My husband got upset with me the other day because he says all I do is criticize him. Instead of getting angry — like I usually do — I stopped and thought about it, and I guess he's probably right. But what can I do? I make critical remarks without even thinking. — Mrs. J.F.
A: You've already taken the first step by admitting you have this problem and want to do something about it. Constantly criticizing others not only drives a wedge between you and them, but it is wrong in the eyes of God.
A critical attitude almost always has its roots in pride, which is a sin. Down inside, critical people like to think they are superior to others and know better about how things ought to be done.
Even if they're occasionally right about this, they end up implying that the other person is dumber than they are. But the Bible warns, "The pride of your heart has deceived you" (Obadiah 3).
What can you do? First, ask your husband to forgive you and help you overcome your tendency to be critical. Learn to compliment others when they do something positive — and deliberately look for things you can compliment.
This may seem hard at first because you've been used to looking for things to criticize. But in time your attitude can change, with God's help.
Most of all, make Christ the center of your life, and ask him to help you love others the way he does. Ask him also to help you control your tongue, so you learn to bless and encourage others instead of criticizing them.
The Bible says, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6).
Q: Many years ago, I stole some money from the owner of a store where I was working. The store no longer exists and the owner has died, but now that I'm a Christian I know I did wrong and feel I ought to make things right somehow. Or has God already forgiven my theft and I'm worrying needlessly? — A.S.
A: When Jesus Christ died for you, all your sins — without exception — were placed on him, and he took upon himself the judgment you deserved. The Bible says, "When you were dead in your sins... God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins" (Colossians 2:13).
One way we know we've truly given our lives to Christ, however, is that we regret the wrong things we once did, and if possible we want to make them right. Yes, God has forgiven all your sins, but he also wants you to do whatever you can to heal any hurts or undo any damage you've caused.
God's will is for us to "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him" (2 Peter 3:14).
I often think of a man by the name of Zacchaeus who met Jesus one day. He apparently had grown very wealthy by cheating people while collecting taxes for the Roman government. But when he met Jesus, his attitude completely changed, and he was determined to reverse the wrongs he'd done.
He declared, "Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount" (Luke 19:8).
Since you can no longer repay the store owner, I suggest you make a special gift to your church or other ministry that will help others in the name of Christ.
(Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn., 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM; or visit the web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn.: http://www.billygraham.org.)