THINK ON THESE: Dealing with criticism

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” – Dale Carnegie


From time to time, we received criticism from others. “The motive behind criticism often determines its validity,” wrote Criss Jami in Killosophy. “Those who care criticize where necessary. Those who envy criticize the moment they think that they have found a weak spot.”

I was reminded of the story shared by William Barclay. There was this budding English politician named Harold Nicholson who, at the start of his career, went to old Stanley Baldwin seeking advice.

“You are going to be a statesman and try to handle the affairs of this country,” the political veteran told him. “Well, I have had a long experience of such a life, and will give you three rules you had better follow.”

The first rule was: “If you subscribe to a press-cutting agency, cancel your subscription at once.”

The second rule: “Never laugh at your opponent’s mistakes.”

The third and final rule: “Get used to hearing people attribute bad motives to what you are doing.”

In ending his story, Barclay wrote this thought-provoking statement: “You can be as good as Jesus and yet have people criticize anything you do. No matter what Jesus did, someone was against it. Sometimes, it seems that we just can’t win: we’ve damned if we do something, and we’re damned if we don’t. But don’t get upset about it. Little boys throw stones only at trees which bear fruit.”

Celebrities – movie stars, politicians, artists, journalists, and singers – are not immune from criticism. Even if their intentions are good, many still find ways to criticize whatever they will do.

Television star Garry Moore once announced that he was giving St. Christopher medals to members of his staff. Some viewers, believing him to be Jewish, berated him for what they thought was hypocrisy in giving away a Catholic Sacramental. Others, who thought him to be a Catholic, scolded him for thrusting his religion upon others.

Moore, who happened to be Episcopalian, told a journalist about the matter: “If you say, ‘Happy Mother’s Day,’ someone is going to write in and say, ‘What’s the matter? You don’t like your father?’”

You either win or lose; you can’t please everyone. “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win,” Lou Holtz said. “And you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.”

Yes, so many people have shared their thoughts on criticism. “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help,” American president Abraham Lincoln said. “If we judge ourselves only by our aspirations and everyone else only by their conduct, we shall soon reach a very false conclusion,” said another US president, Calvin Coolidge.

“If you have no will to change it, you have no right to criticize it,” Mark Twain pointed out. Frank A. Clark has this to say: “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed it much better: “I have no right, by anything I do or say, to demean a human being in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him; it is what he thinks of himself. To undermine a man’s self-respect is a sin.”

At one time, a mathematics school teacher wrote the following on the board: 9 x 1 = 7, 9 x 2 = 18, 9 x 3 = 27, 9 x 4 = 36, 9 x 5 = 45, 9 x 6 = 54, 9 x 7 = 63, 9 x 8 = 72, 9 x 9 = 81, and 9 x 10 = 90.

When she was done, she looked back at the students and they were all laughing at her because of the first equation which was wrong. Then the teacher told the class:

“I wrote that first one wrong on purpose, because I wanted you to learn something important. This was for you to know how the world out there will treat you. You can see that I wrote the right answer nine times, but none of you congratulated me for it. But all of you laughed and criticized me because of one wrong thing I did.

“The lesson is: The world will never appreciate the good you do a million times, but will criticize the one wrong thing you do,” the teacher continued. “So, don’t get discouraged. Always rise above all the laughter and criticism.”

Jonathan Swift has this observation: “That was excellently observed,’ say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.”

Dr. Jose P. Rizal, our national hero, once said: “We need criticism to keep us awake.” In other words, we need those criticisms because those observations tell us whether we are on the right or wrong track. We can assess what we have done.

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

In other words, criticisms are good reminders. “The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism,” American inspirational author Norman Vincent Peale said. –

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