“… let there be no gossip or criticism of one another. Instead, let the understanding, love and peace of the program grow in you one day at a time.”
— Al-Anon Suggested Closing
I’ll talk about gossip in another post, the one about how unsuccessful people talk about people. This post is about criticism.
It was a surprise to first discover how much of a name-caller I had become. It’s a surprise when I rediscover how far I have not come. I observe a behavior that I find rude and blurt out “jerk” or ‘twit” or “asscactus” in knee-jerk reaction, without even knowing the circumstances and certainly without stopping to think of the person as a unique, unrepeatable creation of God. It’s a principle of my religion to affirm and promote the inherent dignity and worth of every person – so where’s that in my leap to judge and criticize?
I’m better than I was. There’s at least an awareness there and an attempt to correct my attitude. But how can I create an attitude that doesn’t provide fertile ground for that kind of behavior to grow in to begin with? That’s something to meditate and pray on.
I don’t want to stuff my feelings. Surprise is fine. Anger is even fine. Feelings are dashboard lights that tell me something is going on that I need to attend to. It’s the leap to judgment and criticism that I need to curtail.
Another aspect of criticism is obsession over another person’s behavior or errors. Humans make errors; it’s one of our defining characteristics. If I hang onto someone’s error or judge them for it, if I speak with them about it when that’s not my role, I’m adding negativity to the world, by adding negativity to the inside of my head. It invariably leaks out through my attitude and actions.
Does it need to be said?
Does it need to be said right now?
Does it need to be said right now by me?
If I’m not the parent or direct-line supervisor, or it’s not a behavior that’s within my purview even if I am the parent or supervisor, maybe I should keep it to myself, pray for the person, and move to what’s next.
How can I remember this? How can I develop a muscle that leaps to affirm rather than criticize?