Everyone has an opinion about everything. And everyone loves to offer it whether it is asked for, needed, or not. Some of that opinion is often critical. Again, everybody loves to criticize others. And they do it all the time! It’s so interesting. And often downright funny. If you just watch the social media space, for instance, everyone has an opinion on how the country must be done. Every action of public figures __ politicians, bureaucrats, movie stars, sportspeople __ is criticized and rubbished.
You and I are as guilty of indulging in, and are not spared from it either, criticism.
Just review the past 24 hours. Think of all that you said. And in some way you may have criticized or offered an opinion on something or the other in your circle of influence. Maybe you may have posted something on your facebook page criticizing a movie or a politician. Or you may have sworn at an unruly driver on the street and criticized the lack of traffic sense among people. The one curious thing about criticism is that it always sounds right and justified when you use it on someone else. But when you are criticized you often grieve. This happens everywhere __ in our homes, at workplaces, among friends, in social circles, on a plane, even at a funeral! Criticism can surely debilitate you__leaving you wondering why people are being so mean and are unwilling to understand you.
Yet when you receive criticism, it is a great opportunity to cleanse yourself. When you are, or anything you have done is, ridiculed, questioned and rubbished, through your pain you can awaken to an awareness that can transform you. Your grief, the way you feel at the time that you are being criticized, gives you the opportunity to understand the value of being compassionate and appreciative of others’ efforts and opinions.
In order to appreciate this better, first understand why you__or I__ criticize in the first place. Criticism is, fundamentally, an ego game. It is your mind urging you to consider yourself superior to another person. It is also a reaction borne out of fear. Because the act of criticizing is older than you are! So, you have been criticized even before you came to terms with the ways of the world. Your criticism, of others, is often, therefore, in self-defence. You criticize because you find it, obviously, more rewarding than being criticized!
The best way to deal with criticism is the way you would deal with hot candle wax. First allow it to dry up. It is a lot easier to discard it and get it out of your system when it has become cold and stale. Understand also that criticism is just a review about an event or action that is over, past, dead and done away with. In the now, in the present, there is no issue. So, learn to let go and move on than dwelling in the past! Second, appreciate where the person who is critical of your actions is coming from. Even if the person is unjustified, rude, violent or cruel, understand that that person has a right to her or his view. It belongs to that person and does not belong to you __ even if it is about you. Train your mind to respond with an exclamation__from awe, from wonder, from amazement__ that says “Is that so?” instead of responding with anger and violence while asking “How dare you?” Know that when you, even if it is only in your mind, question the other person’s right to opinionate, criticize, it is really your ego which is leading you. Refuse to follow. Turn your attention away. Learn to treat the whole experience like a game. Tell yourself: “Hey! Watch out! This situation, this comment, this person is provoking me. And my mind is urging me to fall prey, to succumb. Let me escape!” And each time you win, punch your fist up like a champion will. When you do succumb, do get dragged into the situation and when you emerge from it bruised and grieving, remind yourself to not fall prey again. Like with all other games you have learned in Life, you get better and better at dealing with criticism with practice. Then, over a period of time, you will have mastered the art of being unmoved. All criticism, then, will just fall off you. Like water falls off a duck’s back!
Celebrate your critics too. They are the ones who will tell you things which no one else will. Not all criticism is unfair or unjustified. There’s value in everything. Focus on the message and not on the messenger. On what is being said and not on who is saying it or why the person should not be saying it! Again, you don’t need to always agree with what’s being said. But you can at least reflect on it. And if you see value, incorporate the learning or input, to make you, or whatever you are doing, better.
Whatever you do, whether you welcome criticism or reject it, learn to be both miserly with your own views of others and to be unaffected by their views of you! It’s a beautiful way to cut your giant ego to size. And an even more wonderful way to celebrate the mystical diversity of thought that thrives in the oneness of all creation!