“Don’t criticise them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”
— Abraham Lincoln
16th President of the United States (1809–1865)
There are ironies upon ironies when it comes to criticism. The critical person, who offers not so much constructive feedback for the aid of improvement, but repetitively fires off overt and/or subtle salvos of nagging negativity, is screaming from within themselves. They are the least happy of all souls, without having consciousness of the fact. They are self-deluded, seeing problems in the rest of the world, without acknowledging the vast chasms of lonely dissonance within themselves.
This is most visible in the person who is not normally a critical type, but, due difficult circumstances, has lost their precious chord of hope. We, who are criticised, want to criticise, but now we can see the truth in Abraham Lincoln’s quote: we can arrange for them the empathy of compassion—our lives are perhaps not so hard. And even if our lives are as hard (or harder), we have resources at our disposal they don’t have.
God asks us, instead of retaliating against the critical person, to deal with them with a strange unworldly compassion.
The criticism must stop with us having been criticised; there is no retaliation.
There is great broad truth in the above quote; one that takes us past criticism. But we are to adopt its truth in knowing that all non-constructive feedback is fraught with fault—resonating with motives to tear down and not build up.
The criticiser is their own give-away. They have given away prominent clues as to the position of their hearts; the partiality of someone hurting in some untenable way.
It is sad that, least of all, the criticiser will see their fault. Their stubbornness is piqued.
What motivates the critical person is a sense of negativity deep within them, probably at a hidden, unconscious level. They are fearful, lonely, frustrated, resentful, betrayed, envious, or helpless. There is some rich sense of sorrow that words cannot express, and a seething agitation bristles silently within them.
Pity the poor people getting in the way of their path. It’s not their personal dissatisfaction that’s the problem; it’s the rest of the world.
People who criticise others as a characterisation of who they are, ironically, have the least worthy self-image of all. Unconsciously they may despise themselves, be fearful, feel resentful, etc, and not even know. Knowing this helps us to be compassionate, even when they are tyrants toward us in their way they condemn.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.