So Why Do We Do It?
The simple reason is that we do it to make ourselves feel better when we feel inadequate in some way. Let’s look at a few now, shall we?
First, we are wired to want to be right. And when someone messes with our idea of what’s right, we react, don’t we? Sure we do. Remember when you were in school and somebody did something you thought was weird? What was your reaction? Did you laugh? Did you recoil in disgust? Did you think, “Man, I’d never do something like that!”
Whatever the case, you couldn’t help but look, could you?
If anything unusual happens in front of you, your attention is drawn to it like a magnet. Don’t believe me? What happens when there’s an auto accident? Traffic backs up for miles. People’s necks turn further than ever trying to probe into the situation. The inner busybody is released and won’t be put away until it is as full as your stomach after a hearty Thanksgiving dinner.
So we criticize things that bother us, mess with our minds, and disturb our sense of how the world really should be. And it doesn’t matter if our ideas about the world are right or not. If we believe something, we will defend it to the death as strongly as if it really is the rock solid truth.
Another reason we criticize is because we feel threatened. We all want to feel safe. So our Creator has planted survival instincts inside us. We will do anything to keep the peace, even things that aren’t healthy. So long as we feel a sense of calm about the world we live in, we feel secure, don’t we?
What about angry people? Do they operate under the same criteria?
Yes, they do. They lash out because they want the world to conform to their standard of balance. They don’t like it when life feels upside down, sideways, or inside out. So they’ll take measures to rein the world in when it runs wild.
Then those of us who are unfortunate enough to be in the spray of their venom get burned, poisoned, or buried.
When Criticism is Unjust
Sometimes we deserve to be criticized. When that happens, there are a few things we should do right away.
First, let’s admit that we messed up.
When you see that you were in the wrong, something amazing happens. You see the light. You open the door to freedom. And you pave the way to do it better next time.
Second, apologize if it’s appropriate.
Most of the time it is appropriate to apologize. If you’ve offended someone with what you said, admit your fault and try to make amends. Stress that in reality she has done nothing wrong. You have. Take the blame on yourself and heap praise on the other person for having the courage to see your error and share it with you – even if they haven’t been nice at all about it.
Third, take steps to make the situation better.
Sometimes there are things you can do to make a mess less messy. If you spill milk on the floor, you can mop it up, right? You can then come behind it and apply some floor cleaner. Who knows? The area might look better when you’re done than it did when you started.
You’ll feel better and just maybe, the person you’ve offended will forgive you and be your friend.
When Criticism is Unfair
What about those times when someone lashes out at you and there is no cause for it? Do you pull out your machete and chop his arm off? Do you spray him with pesticide in the hope some will go into his lungs and choke him to death? Or do you stand there and take it like a superhero?
Here are some suggestions for how to handle an unwarranted assault.
First, acknowledge that the other person feels offended. This is not necessarily an admission of wrongdoing. Rather it is an admission that you’ve noticed her feelings and want her to know that.
Second, stand your ground. While your critic thinks he’s right, you shouldn’t give in if you know you’ve done right. The truth is you can stand your ground without being a jerk. Maybe you could have a conversation like this:
Critic: “I don’t think that’s the way to do it.”
You: “I can see we disagree about the method here. How do you believe it should be done?”
Critic: “We do it this way because that’s the way it’s always been done. Why do you want to be so stubborn?”
You:”I’m open to suggestions about technique. However, I feel I’ve delivered the results you wanted.”
Critic: “Well, yeah. But we just don’t do it your way.”
You: “How about this? If the way I’m doing this fails to work in the future, I’ll try it your way. But until then, I’d like to do it this way. Is that fair enough?”
Critic: “Well, we can try it. But I’ll remember what you said.”
You: “Thanks. And remember, you can always count on my best effort.”
Can you see how a conversation like that would be effective? You haven’t accused your critic of wrongdoing. You’ve stood your ground. And you’ve proposed a plan to move forward. What more can you do?
It’s best to take all criticism in light of the truth. When you do that, you’ll naturally find the right response. And you’ll stay sane in a world where people are always trying to find comfort in a messed up world.
How do you react when someone criticizes you? How would seeing the truth make a difference in your response?