A follow-up to the previously published “How to Appreciate Criticism”, a discussion about what is the critic really doing when he criticizes something or someone? He is expressing his love.
Now that I have explained how to take criticism better, I would like to now discuss what it is the critic really does when he criticizes.
This can be effectively explained with an example all of us can appreciate – childhood.
When I was younger, less naughtier but still often reprimanded, my mother would often say to me, as I sniveled after a hurtful scolding, words to the following effect:
I scold you not because I am angry with you but because I love you. It is easier not to scold you and not care what you do. If I didn’t love you, I would not trouble myself like this. You may not understand it now, but you will understand when you are older.
Of course at that tender and ignorant age, I thought she was crazy – what was this, the masochistic school of love? Is the expression of love supposed to be painful? To scold me is to love me? Not from where I’m standing, mom! – I would often think when she told me that.
That was then.
Now, a little older but still none the wiser, I understand what she meant. I hasten to add that I am now very grateful for all the reprimands and punishments I received then. Regrettably, this realization does not appear to lessen her enthusiasm for reprimanding me these days. If at all it seems to imbue in her a renewed drive! But mothers cannot stop being mothers, so the best thing to do is to grin and take it the right way. Love isn’t always about the good and happy feelings it fosters – it as much about pain, but a wholesome and necessary one.
When our parents scold us, reprimand us or punish us often they do so out of love, not malice. Most of the time. They do so in the hope that it will shape and grow us into mature, responsible and useful adult human beings. They do so in the hope that we, as their children, become better than they could hope or imagine to be. That is the love of a parent – to want something better for their offspring. Those instances of harshness are necessary if not vital in spurring us to improvement.
So it is with our parents, so it is with the critic.
The critic in criticizing is actually expressing if not declaring his love, his need if not desperation to care. If he did not care, he would not waste his time reading, researching, understanding, thinking, synthesizing and then criticizing. All these acts require an enormous amount of effort and time, which could be spent doing other more entertaining or enjoyable activities. The critic forsakes all that to spend his precious time, effort and money when he chooses to criticize.
His criticisms are directed with the hope of improving that person or institution or idea because for his own personal reasons it is important to him. It is not to denigrate it. And it is so important that he not only makes sacrifices but also risks his own security and sanity by potentially incurring the wrath of the power and the influential. The highest form of criticism is the type that speaks the truth to power and we all know how the powerful hate the truth.
A critic’s actions in that sense make no sense and appear malicious unless we appreciate that what drives him is simply the great love he has for the object of criticism. An act of criticism by a critic is in truth an act of love. When he criticizes, he is, in a metaphorical sense, making love to the object or subject of his criticism.
The object or subject of criticism who does not understand the utility of criticism or admit it, instead of feeling its silky folds and caresses, feels it as hurtful stinging; but that stinging is not due to the prick of the critic (it is never long or sharp enough to penetrate within). Those hurtful pricks the criticized experiences actually emanates from within himself. It emanates from his conscience, which is struggling to awaken and assert itself. That pain one feels arises from the internal struggle to suppress and deny his conscience.
So to those who are criticized – remember, your critic does not hate you.
Actually, he loves you.
That criticism he is launching at you? Don’t mistake it for anything else than his attempt to make love to you.
Don’t get angry. Don’t get even.
Make love back to him.
And by making love, I of course, do not necessarily mean sex.
I should though.