Dale Carnegie said, “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn – and most folks do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Aristotle the philosopher once said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
Criticism is a part of every day life for the majority of people. Especially so for serious believers in the Lord Jesus Christ in today’s society where truth is relative and every one lives by their own opinions. Thus Christians are often seen as narrow-minded and bigoted because we hold to the absolute truth of Scripture.
The mainstream media, talk shows on radio, and television now spend most of their airtime presenting news laced with various degrees of criticism. Cheap shots are common on late-night television, and drive-by assassins take aim by the minute on the internet. Follow the comment section on most websites and you’ll find a boatload of hypercritical, cynical, rough comments and attacks.
Anywhere there’s an opportunity to weigh in with an opinion, the comments are unfiltered and fierce. Without a bridle and free of hesitation, people are openly judgmental and critical of topics they know little about and, even worse, people they know nothing about. Criticism has more bandwidth than ever before, and it’s not going away. We’ve all been criticized by someone for something at some time. No one is exempt from criticism, but it’s dangerous to live your life attempting to avoid it.
Many people who feel insecure and are not walking in the assurance of God’s love and acceptance concentrate on avoiding criticism. When you concentrate too much on avoiding criticism you become an overly cautious, compromised version of who you are meant to be. So, as Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
You’ll still be criticized by somebody, because you can’t please everybody. So, if living a life of purpose is important to you, you can save yourself a lot of internal struggle by deciding that your goal is not to avoid being criticized. That’s way too small a goal for somebody who wants their life to count. It’s better and so much more rewarding to focus on being the best you can be and not worry too much about the critics.
Doing this takes courage today more than ever before. The reality is that the more good you attempt to do, the more vulnerable you will be to criticism. In regard to doing good, Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of a former president of the United States) said, “Do what you feel in your heart is right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
Jesus spoke of the certainty of criticism when He said that John and He were targets of unavoidable criticism. Although they were deserving of respect, people still found something to criticize. He said, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Matthew 11:18-19)
One way to look at it is by realizing that if you’re doing your best and being criticized, you are in good company with some great people. If Jesus, who was perfect, still had critics, then what chance do any of us of not having critics? Even though criticism is not new, social media has given every critic a microphone, and the volume has gone way up. It’s more essential than ever that anyone who is going to do life and make an impact for Jesus in their world not try to avoid bering criticized.
What’s worse than the criticism itself is the effect that criticism has on the people who hear it. The cause of the effect is usually unknown, because no one actually credits criticism as the culprit. It just sounds too weak to admit, “I’m afraid of criticism.” But, even though it’s under the radar for most people, the fear of criticism is having a greater effect on modern society than most people realize.
The best people with the greatest potential are choosing to avoid the criticism that comes with putting themselves out there, which leaves the lesser-qualified in charge. Talented, competent people who have a lot to offer are second-guessing whether they want to subject themselves to the scrutiny that goes along with the pursuit of their dreams. It’s as if the fear of criticism has turned into a massive epidemic that is harder than ever to overcome.
People are playing it too safe by communicating a boring vanilla version of their ideas instead of taking aim at the extraordinary. People are holding back instead of contributing, in order to avoid having their ideas criticized.
- The fear of criticism is why people who have something to say don’t speak up
- The fear of criticism is why most people struggle to make decisions
- The fear of criticism is why we’re uncomfortable with vulnerability
- The fear of criticism is why most people get defensive when other people offer helpful suggestions
Listening to the never-ending sounds of criticism around you is making it more and more difficult to get past the fear that you won’r measure up to expectations and will be judged severely as a result.
You can’t help being aware of criticism, but there’s a big difference between being aware of criticism and being controlled by criticism. But since the criticism is here to stay, the question is, what can we do to counter the negative impact it’s having, which is causing some of the best and greatest people to live quiet and less productive lives?
Pushing past the fear of criticism starts by not trying to avoid it, by not changing our course when we know there’s criticism ahead. If we can stop avoiding criticism, we’ll end up where we are meant to be, living the life we are meant to live – the adventure the Lord has planned for everyone who declared they are true believers.