Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Never Spend More Time on a Critic Than You Would Give to a Friend

Everybody’s a critic, and the word alone means those people rarely have anything nice to say. I had a good friend express her concerns this week about a negative review that was left for her by a reader. Like a sore tooth, the hurtful words took joy away from my friend—at least on an emotional level—all the praise and kudos she’s received from hundreds of others not only for this book, but for her other bodies of work as well. In her mind, she fully understood that it was just one person—a lone voice ranting in the wilderness—but that didn’t change the hurt that came along with it.

I’ve heard it said that it takes us seven experiences with praise to counter-balance a single negative comment delivered to us, even by someone who claims to only be giving constructive criticism. Is there really such a thing? If the offering was unrequested, then perhaps those words are better left unsaid.

Like the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. If you truly want to bring about change, then perhaps you should look at the words that are said, or choose to leave them unsaid if that’s the better way.

But what if you’re the one hearing those vinegar-laced words? My mother always told me to 'consider the source'. Would that critic set out to deliberately hurt you? Or are they just so blind they cannot see? If their actions seem deliberate, why would they do such a thing? Sometimes it might be out of jealousy, others could be because they simply don’t understand. Maybe they think they are doing you the good they believe you need. A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgment, and if their value differs from yours this may lead them to an erroneous conclusion—one they seem compelled to share, for whatever the reason.

In any case, we should never place more value—or spend more time—on the words of a critic than we would ascribe to those of a friend. The value of friendships is immeasurable in our lives. The listening ear, and open mind, a pat on the back, a word of support when the thorns of life seem to come our way.

True friendships carries with it the desire to give what is best to each other, feel both love and empathy for those we befriend; and maintain honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, not to criticize or correct, but to maintain an openness beget of nothing but true love. Friendship means a basis of mutual understanding and compassion for one another, and foundation or trust, and a place to go for emotional support.

As Walter Winchell once said, “A friend is one who walks in when others walk out.”

With such as these, we should spend our emotions, ignoring those who would seek to do us harm, both physically and emotionally, with their criticizing tongue. Elder David E. Sorensen once said, “It can be very difficult to forgive someone the harm they’ve done us, but when we do, we open ourselves up to a better future. No longer does someone else’s wrongdoing control our course. When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives.”

So, forgive our critics, those who trespass against us, and set ourselves free. The time we spend on them is time taken away from us to go about doing good in the world, sharing our talents, and building ourselves into a better you and me.  

And that’s what will make this world a better, kinder, and more loving place to be.

1 comment:

sd said...

Criticism is always hard to take, but I have two thoughts that I hope will be helpful. 1) For anyone involved in the arts, criticism is part of the job. They can count on it as sure as death and taxes. And the more successful a writer is, the more criticism they will receive. (Have you seen the shockingly horrible things said about every best-selling author?) So I think it's imperative for writers to be able to be tough and take the heat. 2) Criticism, hopefully given constructively but often not, really is necessary to make us better at what we do. Even when we think we've worked our hardest and done our very, very best, it's often the criticism of another that, once we've calmed down and gotten over being offended, makes us take a second look with new eyes and realize that there really is a way to make it better.