July 26      

Today's quotation:

When we criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.

Richard Carlson

Today's Meditation:

"Criticism" is one of those words that have two sides to them, like "compromise."  It's a word that covers two separate concepts, one generally positive and one generally negative, and it's in our best interests to understand fully the differences between the two and not use them interchangeably.  I can be critical in a positive way by looking for ways to improve something and help others, or I can be negative and harm others by criticizing them personally instead of criticizing what they've done.

The question I always ask myself is simple:  "Is my criticism constructive or destructive?"  Constructive criticism, as we all know, helps other people to make improvements on something that they've done or are doing.  As a teacher, giving constructive criticism is one of my major responsibilities, though I know too many teachers who seem to feel that their destructive criticism is somehow helpful to the students that they're supposed to be teaching.  Destructive criticism, though, shuts down creativity, shuts down desire to improve, prevents people from feeling anything like pride or satisfaction.

When I criticize in a harmful or destructive way, I'm telling the world that I'm trying to make myself feel better by putting someone else down.  While I may think that I'm saying, "Look, world, at how intelligent and clever I am," what I'm actually saying is, "Hey, look-- I can be a real jerk."  And while I'm doing that, I'm hurting someone else, too.  It truly is a lose-lose strategy.

When I criticize constructively, though, I'm not making any personal attacks and I'm offering heartfelt suggestions for improvement.  There is no self-aggrandizement involved, no attempt to put anyone else down.  My only goal is to help someone else to improve, either themselves, their situations in life, or the work that they're doing.  Personally, I hope that I can always be critical in constructive ways, for then I'm contributing to the positive side of life, and not the negative.

Questions to consider:

Is most of your criticism constructive or destructive?  How do you know?

How many people offer mostly destructive criticism while claiming that they're offering constructive criticism?  Why do they do this?

In what ways can you offer constructive criticism?  How is that a form of optimism?

For further thought:

I discovered very quickly that criticism is a form of optimism, and that when you are silent about the shortcomings of your society, you're very pessimistic about that society.  And it's only when you speak truthfully about it that you show your faith in that society.

Carlos Fuentes

more on criticism



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