We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Links to books are "affiliate links," meaning I earn a small percentage when you click through and buy the book. This costs you absolutely nothing extra but helps me keep my cats in the lifestyle they're accustomed to!
In one of my all-time favorite books, Life’s Little Instruction Book, one of the “instructions” is: Just to see how it feels, for the next twenty-four hours refrain from criticizing anybody or anything. Very cool idea – but a wee bit on the tough-ish side if you’re a parent (no matter how perfect your children are.)
I do love the premise behind the thought, though. Criticism is a very sensitive area, and the line between constructive I-really-just-want-to-help advice and destructive I-criticize-and-find-fault-with-each-breath is as thin as Burt Reynold’s hair.
Another great book, Speaker’s Sourcebook II, reminds us of a Peanuts Comic Strip that amusingly sums up critics:
Linus, with thumb in mouth and blanket in hand, turns to Lucy and asks, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?”
Lucy responds as we’d expect: “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.”
Linus throws up his hands and asks, “What about your own faults?”
Our girl, Lucy, doesn’t hesitate a second before answering, “I have a knack for overlooking them.”
There we have it, human nature summed up in a classic comic strip!
I’m a little bit different from most people when it comes to overly critical people. I, honestly, feel nothing but sorry for them. I had a neighbor when I was growing up who was, literally, never content or satisfied – with anything or anyone. She was always grumbling about the weather, her family, or other neighbors. Once she even complained that Thanksgiving was a holiday (I thought that one took the cake.). Most people just hated her with a passion…or strongly, strongly, strongly disliked her. I felt sorry for her. The way I saw it, the only thing worse than living NEAR her would have been living AS her. Can you imagine life from her viewpoint? Nothing is ever right, pretty, or good enough. Miserable existence – so, I guess, a person like that would (maybe without realizing it) try to force everyone else into their circle of discontentment. Then, at least they wouldn’t be alone.
It’s sad, which is why I never hated her – just pitied her. The same way I do everyone who is so easily dissatisfied and so rarely satisfied.
All of us can be overly critical at times, though. Especially if we make our minds up about something or someone. We’ll close our mind shut and become overly critical of everything about the thing (or person) we’ve shut out. I’ve done it before – not with people, mind you – but with places. We’ve moved a lot as a family and there have been several times when I didn’t want to leave one place for another…so the second place had me on its bad side right out of the bag! It has happened twice, truth be told. Each time, I caught myself pretty early and set my thinking straight. I started looking for the GOOD and forced myself to even TALK about the GOOD things. Within a matter of days, all the positive thinking paid off and I not only was content with where I was, I actually loved it.
The worst fault-finding and criticising, of course, is that toward others. People have feelings, after all, and damage to these feelings if very often irreversible. When that happens – nobody wins.
When it comes to fault finding, I think Frank A. Clark said it best: “Lots of faults we think we see in others are simply the ones we expect to find there because we have them.”
Something to think about I guess.
Make each compliment count double!