The Harm We Do
Imagine stabbing a friend in a fit of anger. As the knife blade sinks into his chest, your friend gasps in astonishment. Bewildered, his face contorts in excruciating pain. Losing blood and succumbing to shock, he collapses. Fortunately, someone called an ambulance, which soon arrives and rushes your friend to the hospital. Although he recovers, his chest is marred for life by an ugly scar.
Hard to imagine you would do that, isn't it? And if you did, I am sure after realizing the harm you have done, you would never repeat such an act. Yet, many of us, almost daily, stab the ones we love. We use invisible knives that do not draw blood. The weapon of choice is CRITICISM. The harm we do is just as vile as that produced by a real knife.
Our criticism tears down their self-esteem. They feel unloved and experience self-doubt. Before their wounds have time to heal, we stab them again and again in the same place. How can we be so cruel? Perhaps we are deceived because our weapon and the victim's wounds are invisible. Why are we so vicious? Because of our own insecurities.
How can we improve? The next time you feel like butchering someone with caustic words, pause for a moment, and in your imagination, make your knife visible. Once you realize the harm you are about to do, I'm sure you will stop.
Sometimes the harm we inflict is so subtle, we are unaware of it. An example is combining praise with the word "but." For example, Johnny says, "Look, mom, I got an 'A' on my report card." Mom replies, "That's wonderful, Johnny, BUT you have a 'C' in math." The use of the word 'but' cancels the praise that preceded it. With this is mind, let's 'translate' the above conversation to see what we arrive at. Johnny: "Look, mom, I'm doing well at school." Mom: "No, you're not!"
Compare the possible outcomes of the conversation between Johnny and his mother. What would have happened if his mother had said, "That's wonderful, Johnny. I'm going to tell Daddy how clever you are. Keep up the good work." Wouldn't that have inspired Johnny to work harder on his math, earning more praise in the future? Instead, Johnny feels that his hard work is not appreciated because his mom said, ". . . BUT you have a 'C' in math." Not much incentive for Johnny to try harder, is there?
What to Do When Criticized
What should you do when you are the victim of criticism? Here are some tips.
1. Use the criticism as a learning experience. That is, REMEMBER THE PAIN you feel, and vow not to do the same to others.
2. REMEMBER THEY ARE USING INVISIBLE WEAPONS, so are unaware of the pain they are causing. Forgive them.
3. REMEMBER THEIR PAIN. What do I mean by that? Here's an explanation by someone who's used to receiving criticism, Boy George, "When folks is mean, it ain't that they hate you personal. It's more likely because they are miserable about something in their inside. You got to remember how most of the time when they yell at you or get after you, it ain't you they are yelling at but something inside themselves you never even heard tell of, like some other person has been mean to them, or something they hoped for didn't come true, or they done something they are shamed even to think of, so they get mad at you just to keep their minds off it."
4. REMEMBER NOT EVERYONE IS EQUALLY ENLIGHTENED, or as John Wanamaker said, "I learned 30 years ago that it is foolish to scold. I have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations without fretting over the fact that God has not seen fit to distribute evenly the gift of intelligence."
5. After being criticized, THANK THEM FOR THEIR ADVICE and promise to take it into consideration. By thanking them, you are disarming their antagonism and ending the conversation peacefully.
6. CONSIDER THE SOURCE. The person criticizing you may be incompetent, envious, or jealous. If so, after thanking them for their advice, just brush it off.
7. EVALUATE THE CRITICISM. Although the complaint is probably not objective, there still may be some truth to what they say. Try to use this as an opportunity to grow. Remember, you are imperfect and others may see your flaws more clearly. Learn from them whenever you can, but don't return the favor by criticizing others!
Here's a valuable point made by Judge Harold Medina, "Criticizing others is a dangerous thing, not so much because you may make mistakes about them, but because you may be revealing the truth about yourself." Also, Samuel Johnson said, "God Himself, sir, does not propose to judge a man until his life is over. Why should you and I?" Finally, be patient with the faults of others; they have to be patient with yours.
© Chuck Gallozzi
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