As much as I struggle with criticism when others shower their comments on me, I am also guilty of thinking, speaking, and acting in judgment of others. It’s not something that makes me proud.
Last week, I suggested in “Living Beyond Criticism” that we must learn to accept criticism with the idea that it is simply an opinion of us, and that we can grow beyond the sting of one’s view of us. I also wrote, “Reacting defensively to criticism does not make criticism go away, but convinces those delivering the criticism that what they believe about you is true.”
When we are the ones doling out the criticism or standing in judgment of others, what does it say about us? Does it do us any good? Does it bring about positive changes? Does it make us feel better about the situation? Or does it cause more resentment? Does it contribute to our continued distrust of others? Do we feel superior or alone when those we criticize retreat and insulate themselves from us?
Many of us grew up in hypercritical family units. We learned how to belittle, criticize, and incite shame. We became habitual experts at word manipulation in order to keep others in line or to feel that we were in control over situations we really were powerless to change.
Just as it is important to understand that criticism aimed at us is merely an opinion, we must also look to why we also criticize others. Perhaps we feel the need to be right. Or perhaps it’s that we feel we have the right to be critical because it’s been done to us.
When I get caught up in how I feel about others’ decisions, actions, or thoughts, I can become critical. In fact, I usually go into a “holier-than-thou” internal diatribe or I self-flagellate for acting toward others in ways that can only cause distance between us. I never feel good about it.
I was taught how to be critical. I learned the lesson well. It allowed me to survive some of the toughest times. But the lesson is well-past its prime.
Old habits die hard. This is one that needs to be put to rest.