Some things get me thinking. Thinking enough to write a blog post.

Things like criticism.

I’ve heard a lot of advice about criticism.

Like: ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all.’

I’m sure you’ve had your share of similar-sounding advice.

And you know what? I don’t think most people realize when they are being damagingly, soul-crushingly critical.

For instance, I have this friend, Mythical, who seems to love to criticize. It seems that he is never so happy as when he’s relating a hard-done-by story. One where he’s hard done by, of course. Every time I see him, he has a list of complaints as long as my arm. About his wife, his children, his work-place, his doctor, even his shoemaker – and the latter may very well be non-existent. Well, if you ever meet Mythical, you’ll know what I mean. On the rare occasion that he hasn’t got a complaint, he says ‘Well, we all know that this can’t last!

Now, I’ve known Mythical for a long time. And I know that there’s one thing that really gets his goat. He gets really upset when people CRITICIZE.

He explodes: ‘I just wish people would stop criticizing! Why can’t we all put a little positive spin on life? What of a little affirmation? The world will be a much better place!’

Huh?!!

And it suddenly hit me.

I don’t think Mythical even realizes when he’s being damagingly critical. He is merely fighting the injustices in an unjust world. The lack of love in a loveless era. The insincerity in an insincere community. No, he’s not being critical!

Yes, my friend sees himself as a lone soldier, backed against a wall, fighting the world.

© iStockphoto.com/biffspandex

© iStockphoto.com/biffspandex

*Sigh*

I have two pieces of advice for Mythical. Assuming I got him to read this post completely, up to this point, I could say:

1. Mythical, next time you accuse someone else of being critical, please – um – stop, won’t you? Perhaps you could consider what’s happening in that person’s life that is causing them to be so critical? You may even find that the two of you have a lot in common. You are really two lone soldiers, backs to your respective walls, fighting against an unjust world, a loveless era, an insincere community. You seem to be on opposite sides of the fight merely because you’re backed up against different walls.

And if he’s calmly listened to me to this point – which is doubtful, I could continue:

2. Also, next time you have a hard-done-by story to tell, perhaps you could take a long, hard look at yourself first? There could be things – holes, unresolved issues, you  know –  in your life that are somehow making you feel like you’re fighting the world. And maybe – just maybe – that’s causing you to attack more than defend. And you are – unknowingly of course – causing pain. But, Mythical, rather than getting all guilted up, perhaps you should be kind to yourself, and gently address whatever it is that’s got you somehow backed up against that wall, fighting.

Yes, I hear what you’re saying. Why am I even hanging round Mythical, letting this stream of negativity pour unstemmed into my life?

Well… it’s a little hard to dump Mythical. You see, Mythical IS ME.

Yep! I’m talkin’ about myself.

And I really hope I hear this advice. And, kind of actually do something about it.

Well, perhaps Mythical is also you. And you over there. And that person sitting on the sidewalk. And the other one over there. And that grumpy man across the road. And…

Because we’re all really in the same hard place. Backed up against those walls, fighting off the rest of the world.

There must be a heck of a lot of walls around.

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