Handling criticism

Heard some good words on TV that I really liked, so am writing this piece. Many of us have difficulty handling criticism. We all like hearing good things said about ourselves. Common wisdom says that we should criticise (constructively) in private, and praise (lavishly) in public. Yet, there are times when we hear ourselves or our near or dear ones criticized or gossiped about, which leaves us or the person pained and hurt. There are two kinds of criticism – one in front of us (on our face), one behind your back. Critisism or talk that makes fun of us done in our absence is called gossip. Why do we gossip? Some of us consider it a good past-time, some of us are compelled by habit to take on the role of BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), while most of us (I’d like to believe) do it unintentionally. I am intolerant to criticism or gossip behind my back. I guess most of us are. I’d much rather somebody comes and tells me directly what he/she has to, and I’ll try to improve (or find out what is bothering the person and sort things out). Many of us learn to take and learn from constructive criticism. But can we always take it? How about if somebody is to come and hurl abuses at us right on our face? Heard a guy on TV (an Engineer turned Hindu religious figure) tell what Kabir (a fifteenth century Indian religious reformer who reached out to the hearts of Hindus and Muslims alike) had to say about criticism. He quoted Kabir as preaching that we should be thankful of our critics. The message can be interpreted as follows.

We should be thankful when we have critics and if someone criticises us because they serve as ‘free washing machines or a free dry cleaner’ (he used the term ‘dhobi’, which means a man who washes clothes). Just as a dhobi (or a washing machine) cleanses our clothes of dirt, a critic helps cleanse our hearts and soul. He/she prevents us from getting too proud, and helps keep us grounded. Kabir, apparently, even said that if he had an empty house opposite his own, he would get his biggest critic, perhaps even pay him, to come and stay opposite his house. Then, each time, as he would leave and enter his house, the critic would help cleanse his soul and prevent false pride from seeping in.

Something to ponder about! Not advocating that we go and start criticising today, thinking that we are doing a favour. In fact, it is said in Hindi "Vaani se kabhi kisi ko kasht na pahunchao" (never hurt someone with your words, at least try not to). The message from Kabir is how to view and handle people/the situation if and when somebody criticizes us.

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