Have you ever wondered why it is so easy for you to criticize others and it is so difficult to receive criticism? Human nature naturally prefers praise to correction. It is the way we are. Yet, there is no real growth without correction, you know, optimistic criticism. Or call it discipline!
Oh yes, there is a place for praise…a good place for that matter! Praise can reinforce the good. It can have good effect on the psyche of a person, although if it is overdone or misapplied its effect can be unexpectedly negative.
But you know, man is not just a soul with a mind. Man is a spirit with a heart. Therefore, psychology, as any other human discipline, has its limitations.
Just like a student needs to embrace the complete curriculum for outstanding success in his academic pursuits, we, as students of life, must also refuse the temptation to neglect the wisdom that fills in (and compensate for) the limitations of human knowledge. There is a complete curriculum for our lives, a “livingtemplates” that details the blueprint, the plan, for our growth and fulfillment. Now, criticism is a very prominent part of this curriculum.
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines criticism as “the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing.” If you look at this definition, you will realize why we don’t want to be criticized. Because the human nature at work in most people does not focus only on the issue that needs to be corrected or resolved, but it focuses on the person in a very negative way. More like the proverbial throwing away of the baby with the bath water.
Please consider this narrative: A lady was caught in adultery by some religious people. They took her (and I wonder why they left the man she was in adultery with) to Jesus, waiting for a fitting judgment from him. They told Him that the judgment for such an offence was death by stoning. While Jesus did not approve of this woman’s act of adultery, He stooped down momentarily, and then asked “…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7).
Here is the continuation of the story:
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
“…go, and sin no more.”
To criticize should not be to accuse, it should be to correct so as to make whole. It is not to condemn, to make someone feel bad or to disgrace. Although elements of these may occur within the emotions of the one being corrected, even when done purposefully and peacefully yet, it is essentially to heal, to correct what is wrong, and to make complete.
Whereas when we are praised, our good works are applauded; that in itself has no enduring profit for us compared to the help we can get when we are corrected. Let’s bear in mind, for every time you are praised, there are still a number of things that are missing in your life that a proper criticism (correction, discipline) will restore, so that you can be complete, almost wanting nothing.
“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” Job 5:17
When you are at the receiving end, regardless of how the correction is relayed, take the issue and deal with it, and leave out the mixed feelings that comes with that reality check. Just like you tactfully remove the bones in a fish meal and eat what is edible, you can definitely ignore the pain or feeling of sadness that comes with criticism, because of the joys it promises you in the days to come.
Is there something you need to stop? Then stop it! Is there something you need to start? Then start it! The important thing is, every criticism is a demarcation. It demarcates all errors made so far with a new beginning. Go and sin no more. Go ahead. Don’t hesitate to begin that good thing that you have been procrastinating. Don’t delay the death of that habit that is bent on killing you.
As long as you go on with your life without increasing the lifespan of (your) error, but putting it to death, you win. Even those who point out your error in order to put you to shame will only walk away with the dashed (failed) hope of seeing you finished.
Fortunately, it was not you that was finished; it was the bad habit (error, mistake, wrong beliefs and of course sin) that wanted to finish you that was finished. R.I.P to all your failures, weaknesses and mistakes of the past. It’s a new day now: Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
“In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.” Proverbs 28:23 NLT
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.
Picture credits: Robert Half, refe99, Psychology today.