“Any fools can criticize, complain and condemn – and most fools do.  But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” – Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People


Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the country’s national hero, once said: “We need criticism to keep us awake.” 

He was right, damned right.  “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed,” American novelist Herman Melville reminded.

It simply means that when you criticize some be sure you know who you are putting in the limelight.  I was reminded of an anecdote which was published in Reader’s Digest.  There was this well-known New York photographer who went to a socialite party. On his way in, the hostess told him, “Oh I love your photos; you must have an amazing camera!”

The photographer never replied.  And so they had dinner and at the end of the night, on his way out, the photographer commented to the hostess, “I really loved the food; you must have an amazing stove!”

“Criticism of others is thus an oblique form of self-commendation,” Fulton J. Sheen wrote in Seven Words of Jesus and Mary: Lessons from Cana and Calvary.  “We think we make the picture hang straight on our wall by telling our neighbors that all his pictures are crooked.”

To criticize means, according to my dictionary, is “to find fault with” or “to point out the faults of.”  But criticism also means “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly.”

The usually unflappable Winston Churchill could handle almost anything in life; he endured the chaos and terror of World War II without losing his cool.  But at least there was one event in his life that had a humbling effect on him; that was when he encountered Lady Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit in the British House of Commons.

At that time, the two were staying with Churchill’s cousin, the Duke of Marlborough, at Blenheim Palace.   During the dinner, Lady Astor told the British prime minister: “Winston, if I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee.”  He looked her straight to the eyes and remarked, “Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

But there’s a Filipino version to that.  In a party, a woman told a young man who imbibed too many drinks.  “You are drunk,” she said.  The young man mumbled but still managed to say, “Tomorrow, I will be sober, but you will still be ugly!”

Their exchange of words may be funny but what if you were the recipient of such offending words?   What if someone will tell you any of the following statements: “Your work put a first grader to shame” (which actually means you don’t know what you’re doing) or “Your acting is no brainer” (another way of saying “It’s boring”). 

Some people criticize others because the recipients are better than the critics themselves. Remember the movie Bituing Walang Ningning, where singing sensation Cherrie Gil told the upcoming phenomenal Sharon Cuneta: “You’re nothing but a second rate, trying hard copycat.”

There are two sides of a coin; the same is true with criticism: it is either bad criticism or good criticism.  If someone criticize you, think it over.  Study how the person said it and ponder whether what he is saying is true or not. 

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary,” Sir Winston Churchill pointed out.  “It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body.  It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

American President Theodore Roosevelt explained it further with these words: “It is not the critics who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.  So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know their victory nor defeat.”

In most instances, even if you have given your best and done what you think is right, there are always those who will find fault on what you have accomplished.  But don’t be discouraged.  Listen to the words of American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.  You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

To those people who always criticize you, here’s a tip from French moralist and essayist Joseph Joubert.  There was this man who interrupted one of Buddha’s lectures with a flood of abuse.  Buddha waited until he had finished and then asked him: “If a man offered a gift to another but the gift was declined, to whom would the gift belong?” The man replied: “To the one who offered it.”

Buddha told the man: “I decline to accept your abuse and request you to keep it for yourself.” 

But there are those who criticize you in order for you to be better and to give your very best.  “We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are a few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offed a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him,” French philosopher Michel de Montaigne said.

Perhaps, one of the surest marks of good character is a man’s ability to accept personal criticism without malice to the one who gives it.  A woman at a mall was looking at the ice cream.  Another woman came up behind her and grabbed hold of her hand.   “Get away from there.  You don’t need that.  You’re already overweight.”

The startled woman turned around to face her critic.  The woman who had approached her realized she had confused this woman with a friend.  The woman gained her composure and responded to her critical assailant with these words: “You mean you have a friend!?!”

Lord Alfred Tennyson advices: “No man ever got very high by pulling other people down. The intelligent merchant does not knock his competitors. The sensible worker does not work those who work with him. Don’t knock your friends. Don’t knock your enemies. Don’t knock yourself.”