There are two types of criticism. Both are unwanted if we can be honest with ourselves. The first type comes from those who love us or support our dreams. This type of criticism aims to make us better. The second type comes at us from people who are jealous or just unhappy with their lives. Their aim is to destroy and keep us down.

Obviously the first type of criticism is infinitely better than the second kind, but we would be much happier if we didn’t receive either and could pretend that everything is rosy and perfect.

Our lives are like a painted room.

You tape it all up. You paint the trim. Do your best with a brush and a roller, and when you are done, you can’t help but notice all the flaws. Pretty soon, you put all the furniture back in and resume the act of living. All of the flaws that you noticed that you wanted to fix are no longer noticeable. They disappear because you don’t focus on them anymore.

But they are there and when a critic comes along, they walk right past you, to the trim on the door and say, ‘aha, there is a drip!”

Criticism is important and we should feel blessed that someone who wants to help us sees something that we can fix and become better in the process.

Most of the time when people ask if you would mind receiving criticism we instinctively say yes. After all, who in their right mind would say no to something that is good for us? We don’t really want to offend their sensibilities, so our default answer is almost always yes, but it shouldn’t be. There are times, when we feel down that we really shouldn’t hear any criticism. We are so hypersensitive of our flaws that hearing how we can be better will not really make us better. It will do the exact opposite.

When we are feeling down, we need to make sure that we protect ourselves and advocate for ourselves by saying no, thank you. Thank you for caring for making me better, but I’m not ready. Being a people pleaser can have painful consequences.

We also can’t shy away from valid criticism. I’m not really sure what constructive means, since the people who want to help you and the people who want to hurt you use that word just as frequently.

In order to grow and get closer to who we want to be, we need to embrace and see the flaws on the wall. We need to sand, patch, and repaint our effort in order to grow and make our effort more lasting.

I have recently received forty five minutes of criticism on my Quintessential Quotables book. I said yes without really wanting to, but strangely that experience has led to this reflection and some really good feedback.

This person found a mistake in the very first chapter of my book. I have edited and had a professional editor comb through it as well, but regardless ’with’ is incorrectly represented by the word ‘will’. What really sucks here is that this mistake is in the very first chapter and not buried at the end of the book somewhere. This hurts. Not only because English is my second language but because I have been an English teacher for over twenty years. It’s hard not to feel like a fraud or a great pretender when someone finds a mistake.

But there it is, so what the hell am I going to do about it?

I’m gonna fix it and move on with my life.

God bless the critics. The good ones at least. Like it or not, what we don’t want to know about ourselves helps us greatly and we are lucky to be blessed with the opportunity to grow.


Cover photo generously provided by photographer Frank McKenna.