With a digital world that claims we are more connected than ever, there has never been more distance and anonymity between people. The more digital interactions occur, the fewer personal interactions occur. With anonymity comes boldness, judgment, and criticism. There’s teasing and poking fun, but then there are insults and unconstructive derision. How do we handle criticism? Do we bottle it up and wait for it to turn into rage? Do we sheepishly accept it with no confidence or belief in our actions? Or do we humbly accept the constructive help of others and ignore the caustic words of the angry mob?
This week on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale talked about the way that we handle criticism, especially during the Christmas season when families gather.
As mentioned in a previous segment, Cale recalls the saying, “If you don’t want to be criticized, say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” That’s no way to live. If we are to be out in the world, surrounded by people of all different creeds, cultures, and attitudes, we are going to receive criticism. “You’re not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone.” (St. Josemaría Escriva) If we’re liked by everybody, we’re living a double life. We have to stand behind our standards and those standards will be hated by somebody.
However, criticism is not to be avoided. Receiving criticism is just another form of suffering and it is through suffering that God will mold and form us into the best version of ourselves. According to scripture, Cale points out, criticism plays a positive role in relationships. It says that people who love you will find a way to show you your flaws. “Better is an open rebuke than a love that is hidden.” (Proverbs 27:5)
Therefore, if we can see that a critique is coming from a place of love — like a fraternal correction — we should welcome it. We should say thank you to those who point out our weaknesses and vices. While that takes a tremendous amount of humility, we are infinitely better for it if we take that criticism to heart. “A single reprimand does more for a discerning person than a hundred lashes for a fool.” (Proverbs 17:10) A fool could be beaten for hours but will not get the point but if an understanding, open person receives a loving correction, they are setting themselves on a path for genuine self-improvement.
The next piece of advice for handling criticism is to take it to our prayer. While it may be difficult in the moment to discern how to handle such matters, taking it to our prayer will always help. Meditation can provide a clear mind to wrestle with whether we do need improvement, ways to start that process, and how to get started on our journey. We shouldn’t let the criticism eat away at our minds and turn us into bitter, resentful people. If we don’t face it head-on, that could happen. “There are lots of people walking around in churches that look like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice, right? They’re just bitter. That’s not going to evangelize. That’s not going to draw people to Christ, the joy of the Gospel.”
If we receive criticism that is unhelpful and insulting, our first impulse is often to retreat from dealing with that person. We don’t want to talk to them or see them or hang out around them. But that is the wrong response. Somebody who lashes out like that is often projecting their own unhappiness onto somebody else so they don’t have to be the only one feeling bad. They don’t want to get to know you and they expect that you don’t want to know them either. But everybody is called to be an apostle and that critic might end up making you a saint.
Listen to the whole talk below:
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT