A few months ago I told you about visiting B’s favorite book store and about a couple of the books I found on that trip. It was the first time I’d ever picked up Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff even though it was written in the late 90’s and is considered one of the most read books of that decade.
In my defense, I’ve always said I’m a late bloomer!
When I found the book, I was really intrigued by all its positive, simple lessons. We know these life lessons, but tend to fall out of practice and forget them. I want to share an important one, in its entirety, with you today. It’s about resisting the urge to criticize–such a hard thing to remember sometimes.
When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.
If you attend a gathering and listen to all the criticism that is typically levied against others, and then go home and consider how much good all that criticism actually does to make our world a better place, you’ll probably come up with the same answer that I do: Zero! It does no good. But that’s not all. Being critical not only solves nothing; it contributes to the anger and distrust in our world. After all, none of us likes to be criticized. Our reaction to criticism is usually to become defensive and/or withdrawn. A person who feels attacked is likely to do one of two things: he will either retreat in fear or shame, or he will attack or lash out in anger. How many times have you criticized someone and had them respond by saying, “Thank you so much for pointing out my flaws. I really appreciate it”?
Criticism is actually nothing more than a bad habit. It’s something we get used to doing; we’re familiar with how it feels. It keeps us busy and gives us something to talk about.
If, however, you take a moment to observe how you actually feel immediately after you criticize someone, you’ll notice that you will feel a little deflated and shamed, almost like you’re the one who has been attacked. The reason this is true is that when we criticize, it’s a statement to the world and to ourselves, “I have a need to be critical.” This isn’t something we are usually proud to admit.
The solution is to catch yourself in the act of being critical. Notice how often you do it and how bad it makes you feel. What I like to do is turn it into a game. I still catch myself being critical, but as my need to criticize arises, I try to remember to say to myself, “There I go again.” Hopefully more often than not, I can turn my criticism into tolerance and respect.
Maybe you think this is impossible. I understand! Trust me, I’m no saint and I can criticize right along with the best of them. Sometimes being critical feels like fun–like good sport even.
Do you know anyone who really isn’t critical? I thought surely I wouldn’t be able to think of anyone but right away one of my brothers came to mind. I’ve seen him say he won’t be a part of a conversation any longer when somebody starts to criticize another person. Let me tell you, that is a startling and unusual thing that throws the conversation for a loop. I’m sure this took a lot of practice but I applaud him for it. He really is a pretty tolerant and respectful guy. He might criticize in his head, but he keeps it to himself.
That’s one person; surely there are more!?
Like Richard Carlson said, the solution is to catch yourself in the act of being critical. Do you think you could not be critical for a full month, a week a day? I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll shoot for a few days at a time to see how often I actually have to catch myself.
What do you think? Is it too easy to be critical or is it just part of how we express ourselves? Chime in.