Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Having Critical Criticism

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
 Winston Churchill

Just a heads up, this is straight to my children.  You can keep reading if you would like, but I offer little wisdom and less encouragement in writing than I do when I parent.

That being said…

In history, the critic has been around and has taken different names in its existence.  The satirist, cartoonist, political opposition and many other manifestations come about when dissention is pushed against the received mode of operations.  It some respects, these individuals are whiny, bratty, needy, annoying, know it all arrogant gas bags with little to no ability to think beyond what they perceive as a reality that was taught to them or enlightened upon them by someone else’s hard work and study.

And here is the hard part, at any one point in your existence you will be one of these people.

You will think you have something so figured out and so mastered that the very idea that someone may know more than you or someone may have a better understanding will never even enter your mind while you ramble off how much you think you understand.

If I can offer a piece of advice to help alleviate the horrible misunderstanding that you think you are hyper intelligent, accept this:

You aren’t.

Criticism is a tool, a necessary one. On your first performance review from your boss, you will see why.  But criticism that come from critical thinking, is the end game you need to reach.

Learn from everyone.  Criticism, in its wrongness, sometime stems from the assumption that you know the rightness of what you’re doing.  And you may very well be right, you may be the gold star test taker that does have the answer but that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to learn MORE of something, from someone else who may have had different experiences from you.  Instead, if you are going to offer your mouth and opinion come at it from a caring attitude.

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”  Abraham Lincoln

One of my greatest pet peeves in Christianity is with the accepted idiocy level I see with some people.  No other place have I seen a group of people so eager to not take thoughts and ideas and studies to a deeper level.  If I hear “put it on the bottom shelf so others can reach it” one more time I will tear up my copy of “Thinking as a Hobby” by Golding.  This enables people to not study.  You can’t hand something to people constantly and expect them to then think for themselves, ever.  They are happy to take spoken word to them as accurate and do no research on their own.  There is a bible verse that says “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  Did you see that?  You need to study.  And I mean study.  Be a student.  Humble yourself to a level of thinking that you need books in front of you with a notepad and pen.  Write down thoughts while reading, questions you may have on things that make sense and chain to other ideas you have about the same topic, or write down what you disagree with about the topic.  Learn about it as many ways as you can while you are of the understanding that you don’t know everything.  And learn, and re-learn.  Allow yourself the possibility that what you are learning may be the wrong way to look at it.  Allow that view to be wiped away and rebuilt.  Have no shame in being wrong.  We all are wrong.  We all make mistakes and we all appear idiotic at some point.  You are human, get over yourself.

 Here is the problem we are warned with studying though, it builds up knowledge, and that is where you have to be careful.

With any subject, gaining an understanding will increase knowledge and with that can come a puffed up attitude.  This is where people get stuck.  As with learning something, there may be the false assumption that you have all the understanding you need and you require no other input.  This is false.  When you learn something, it should constantly be assessed, refined, examined, questioned and settled upon.  Only when you have a full understanding of a subject can you confidently say to any doubt or circumstance that may challenge it “Come, and let us discover this again”.

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots.”  Frank A. Clark 

Your quest to learn something should be matched with the necessary desire to teach it to others.  To spread the understanding and to do so in a way that makes the knowledge available to everyone, but most importantly to your children.  Don’t leave the world with potential idiots.  Teach and train your kids as I have you.  And when teaching others, if you spot the pride of all-knowingness, remember, you have that too.  The quickest way to subvert this pride is with wit.  Never take yourself too seriously.  It impedes progress with others who already think of you as a know-it-all.  Trust me on this.

On the flip side, learn to accept criticism.   Let’s say this: Individuals today have a difficult time communicating.  For certain, there are many ways that they communicate and discuss, but we have reduced the art of conversation to simple text blurbs and status updates.  When someone hears something contrary to their own perceived viewpoint, it is rendered a personal attack as their failure as an individual.

We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him.”  Michel de Montaigne

There is a time and place for your words.  Learn that.  Keep in mind you are ever the student, ever learning, ever humble.  You are prone to mistakes and epic moronic failures.  Stay humble as you learn, and remember you will always be learning. 

But don’t let idiots rule the day.  If something goes against what you have studied, and it is presented as fact, feel free to question it, drill into it, and challenge the presenter with what you understand already of the subject you have learned.  If the first response you receive is “Why are you so critical in questioning?  Why do you think you are so smart?”  You do not have a teacher in front of you, you have someone who reads a lesson to you out of a book and is no better than a recording.  There are teachers in this world, find them, learn from them.

Exist in your life with the view as quoted often “"IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY.”

Don’t question to argue, question to learn.  Never stop learning.  If someone is offended by your questions move on, for you have learned all you can from them.

Operate from the position that some may know less than you, some more than you, but that should never affect your desire to come to an understanding of a subject in it’s completeness as it exists.  Answers are there, but you must be critical in your thinking and have a desire to find them.

As a Christian, we have an available resource given to us that others do not.  Use everything that is given to you, and you will find your answers.

I promise you, there are absolute truths in this world.  There are fundamental foundational truths that cannot be altered or argued with.

They just are.

And when critically thought about enough, and given enough effort in learning about, criticism has no power over them.