THINK ON THESE: Why criticism is needed

September could be considered as a month of criticism.

During the widespread water interruption in Davao City, a Dabawenyo netizen posted a message to Mayor Sebastian Duterte. The Mayor responded to the message and he was bashed on social media.

In a radio interview on the afternoon of September 21 – yes, the day when then president Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law fifty years ago – Mayor Duterte said: “Usahay man gud, mang-insulto ka, dapat kahibalo pud ka mudawat kung insultuhon ka. Ana ra man na.”

In simpler words, if you throw an insult at a person, expect that you will be insulted in return.

Another case happened in Bansalan, Davao del Sur. During the recent weeklong 70th anniversary celebration, a beauty contest was held as one of the highlights. Spectators complained that the stage looked like it was straight from a school program.

In his speech during the day celebrating its 70th year, Mayor Edwin Reyes apologized. He said he will try to improve it should such an event be staged again the following year.

Both are examples of criticism, which is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived failure or mistakes.”

There are criticisms and there are criticisms. There are good criticisms (yes, believe it or not) and there are bad criticisms (which oftentimes are unsavory and unkind).

Dante, one of the successful businessmen in the city, was highly critical of his competitors’ storefront windows. “Why, they are the dirtiest windows in town,” he told his wife.

It was not only his wife – but other businessmen as well – who grew tired of his continual criticism and nitpicking comments about his competitors’ windows. “What can I say,” the wife replied.

One day, over coffee, Dante carried the subject just too far. Before leaving, a friend suggested to Dante that he get his own windows washed.

Dante followed the advice, and the next day at coffee, he exclaimed, “I can’t believe it. As soon as I washed my windows, my competitor must have cleaned his too. You should see them shine.”

As Dale Carnegie, American writer and developer of famous courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, and public speaking, puts it: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain — and most fools do.”

It’s never fun to be on the receiving end of criticism. Sydney Harris reminded, “What people say about us is never quite true; but it is never quite false, either; they always miss the bull’s eye, but they rarely fail to hit the target.”

Donald H. Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense, agreed: “If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.”

Or as Michel de Montaigne states, “We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are 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 offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him.”

When you criticize a person, be sure you know who you are putting in the limelight. 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!”

The usually unflappable Winston Churchill could handle anything. After all, the British prime minister endured the chaos and terror of World War II without losing his cool. But there was one event in his life which had a humbling effect on him. That day came when Lady Nancy Astor became the first woman to sit in the British House of Commons.

At one 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.”

Churchill became silent; he looked her straight in the eyes and remarked, “Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

I think there’s a Pinoy version of the said anecdote. At 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!”

Truth hurts, indeed. In most instances, a person criticizes another person because the critic is better than the recipient of the criticism. In the movie, “Bituing Walang Ningning,” a singing sensation (played by Cherrie Gil) told an upcoming phenomenal star (Sharon Cuneta in the role), “You’re nothing but a second rate, trying hard copycat.”

Take heed of your critics. It happened to Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson. The award-winning thespian doesn’t lose his cool anymore when playing golf, thanks to one critic. “One day, I did get angry with myself and threw a club,” he recalled. “My caddie told me, ‘You’re not good enough to get mad.”

Dr. Jose Rizal puts it bluntly: “We need criticism to keep us awake.”

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