Wednesday, April 1, 2009

31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.

From Marjaana in New York:

Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.

Isn’t it funny how, every time we receive criticism we get all defensive and are able to point out to all kinds of extenuating circumstances: “I was too busy”, “I didn’t sleep well the night before”, “I wasn’t feeling well”, “I had too much on my plate”, “What do you expect, I’m no saint” . . . Yet, when someone else makes a mistake or wrongs us in some way, they are stupid, lazy, incompetent or just bad, horrible people.

I am so guilty of the above, but funnily enough, I had taken this as one of the areas of focus as part of my Lenten journey this year.

If we are to take seriously the great commandment: “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, shouldn’t we try to reverse that and try to take responsibility for our failings and transgressions despite the circumstances and give others the benefit of the doubt and look for ─ with a gentle heart ─ for their extenuating circumstances.

Tough? Yes! Nearly impossible at times? Yes! But, from the Orthodox perspective, aren’t we all supposed to be saints-in-training!

Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.

So what about the times when criticism is clearly not justified. We’ve all been there, I’m sure, the recipients of criticism as part of the blame game, a suitable outlet for someone else’s insecurity, fear, anger, bad mood or ─ sinful as we all are ─ their clear unadulterated desire to hurt you (arising from one of the above).

That’s why testing criticism carefully is important. I bet nine times out of ten we will find that while we may not be guilty this time, we may have gotten away with something earlier, many times, so there’s no point in being huffy.

If after careful consideration we realize that the criticism is truly not justified, the challenge is just to let it go and try to look at the person with compassion and think about how much pain they must be in, in order to behave this way. Is being vindicated really so important that you will risk escalating the situation putting the whole relationship in jeopardy?

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Once again the prayer of St. Ephraim comes to our aid: “Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed are Thou, unto the ages of ages.”

And of course, in the final analysis, it is God to whom we are accountable, and accountable under his laws and as representatives of his Kingdom and his love rather than the Law of Man. So sometimes even when criticism is justifiable in worldly terms, the commandment of loving God with all thy heart and soul and loving thy neighbor as thyself trumps it. After all, wasn’t Jesus criticized for healing on a Sabbath. On the day of judgment, it will be on the degree of love and compassion for each other, our role as peacemakers that we will be judged on. So at times, that VERY IMPORTANT deadline just has to go whizzing by.


Anonymous said...

Marjaana, thank you for this very helpful post.

Mimi said...

I agree with Zenaida, what a very helpful and well written post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done and very true. My new mantra is, "is this an issue or right vs. wrong, or just pink vs. blue." Alleviates alot of anger.


The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.