Have you ever been criticized by someone? Are you a constant critic of others?

Criticism has been defined as “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.” For many, criticism seems to be what leads their health down an even more negative path. A significant number of patients who visit the Budwig Center are not only battling Cancer or some other illness but are also engaged in a war against pessimistic thoughts. Perhaps they have been on the receiving end of scathing words, and they can’t seem to get over the pain those words caused them. Worse still, there may have been people in their lives who disappointed them, and they can’t stop thinking and talking about the failures of those individuals.

If you feel that you are in this bracket, if you are a constant criticizer or a victim of harsh criticism, we urge you to consider the dangers this can have on your wellbeing.

Experts in emotional health have found that every time we criticize someone we cause an emotional disturbance in our body. Put simply, the harmful words we speak send “negative” vibrations throughout our system and causes us physical and emotional damage. Further still, by letting the critical and cynical words of others linger in our memory it’s like allowing a lousy tenant to live in our minds, rent-free.

✤ A critic is a legless man who teaches running.
✤ A critic is a sponge that soaks everything it touches.
✤ He has a right to criticize, who has the heart to help. — Abraham Lincoln
✤ To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.
✤ Two things are bad for the heart–running upstairs and running down people.
✤ Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.
✤ Criticism is most effective when it sounds like praise. — Arnold Glasow

Maintain a balanced view of Criticism

One way to avoid letting criticism inflict a lasting blow on our emotions is to look for the good in negative comments. Consider this; many people who criticize us may sincerely be trying to help. They may be a little harsh in their manner which makes their words hard to accept. However, if we say to ourselves, “this person is trying to help me,” then their observations and suggestions may have some benefits. On the other hand, if we react negatively and “fight fire with fire” we are only going to stir up problems, then the person who corrected us will probably get harder and even more critical. By responding with thanks, we will find that the critic moves on and leaves us alone and usually the matter is forgotten.

A lesson to keep in mind is this: Others are responsible for their words and actions, but we are responsible for our feelings. We can’t let others dictate how we feel. By looking for the good in their words, we maintain our positivity, and we leave them with the negativity or dispel it entirely.

Be Kind, Not Critical

An antidote that can cure us of being a constant critic is understanding. Knowing why someone acts a certain way can have a very healing effect on us. It frees us from being tormented by the words and actions of others. A snappy comment can quickly be forgotten upon learning that the person had an awful day. A reckless driver can be easily forgiven if we learn that they only just got their license. Knowledge and insight can help dissipate a critical attitude.

Consider the following story:

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So, he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away. The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.

When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen. The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said no it was covered with green buds and full of promise. The third son said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all correct because they had each seen but only one season in the tree’s life. He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end when all the seasons are up.

So, what’s the point?

Harsh criticism is a lousy motivator and harms both the giver and receiver. Understanding is the antidote, enabling us to perceive beyond the obvious. Likewise, do not let the cynical words of others dictate your feelings. Draw the good from their comments and maintain your balance and inner peace.

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