“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
It always happens, as election days approach. The TV ads switch from the candidates’ dreams and promises, to smearing the character and career of their opponents. While I must confess a general suspicion of most politicians, I doubt many are as corrupt, immoral, and self-serving as they’re portrayed. In fact, today, I’m watching in disgust, as long-time civic and national leaders are being maliciously disregarded and disrespected.
I always hear like-minded people say, “I just can’t wait for Election Day!”
But, the critic’s voices won’t stop after the election, will they? Whoever loses will quickly fade from the lime-light, and the criticism will become more narrowly focused on the winners.
And, it’s not limited to politics, is it? Depending on the day, and the issue at hand, someone, somewhere is the target of our collective ire. The more famous one becomes, and the more public one’s judged flaws or failings, the more vocal and wide-spread the critique.
“Can you believe she wore THAT to the reward show?”
“Did you read what he tweeted?”
“Can you believe the coach made THAT call?”
“Have you heard what that pastor did?”
As I write this, I’m imagining disparaging social media posts, gone mega-viral.
I’ll confess, I do it too. Like many others, I’m in perpetual evaluation mode, judging people according to my personal ethics, politics, theology, philosophy, and personal tastes, preferences, and biases. And, frankly, much of the time, people just don’t measure up. Sometimes, I verbalize by critiques. Sometimes, I verbalize my critiques publicly.
Let me say that again. People, much of the time, just don’t measure up to this guy’s impossibly high standards and expectations. That’s right. In my eyes, people come up short – WAY SHORT – all of the time. Any given moment, on any given day, I’m keenly aware of the faults and failings of just about everybody.
- I didn’t get treated with the respect I’m sure I deserve.
- I didn’t receive the applause, the acclaim, or the adoration I must be due.
- The meal, the service, the sermon didn’t meet my expectations.
- I didn’t get the call or email I was expecting.
- Or, I’m just feeling annoyed.
I’m exaggerating, slightly. SLIGHTLY. But, before judging ME for my rampant judging, YOU’d better check yourself. I suspect you might be a guilty-critic, too.
In spite of my uber-propensity for judging others (friends, family, and strangers, alike), if I’ve grown weary of the criticisms I hear and see on TV, social media, and everyday conversations, perhaps I need to reevaluate my own critical tendencies. If I don’t like it, why do I do it? Perhaps, the television ads and social media posts are nothing more than public manifestations of the same demon that lives and works in me… and quite possibly in you.
- Who am I to judge and attack the character of another, when I still have so much to work on?
- How dare I critique another for falling short, when I can’t live up to my own standards?
- Who am I, to condemn someone, when I don’t know their whole story?
- Why jump to false-conclusions, based on rumors and mis-information?
- Who made me the standard-maker, the judge, and the jury?
- Why does my opinion matter?
- Why be a critic, when I really don’t want to be criticized?
- Who am I to judge another’s performance, when I’ve never attempted to do their job?
What if we critiqued others less? What if, instead of judgement and criticism, we looked for the good? What if, before jumping to conclusions, we gave others the benefit of the doubt? What if we were less quick to participate in the rumor mill, and remember what we all learned in preschool…
“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
What if we were more freely accepting, forgiving, and grace-giving? What if we practiced gratitude more, and judgement less?
The truth is, the ones we criticize the most, are usually the one’s who are striving to do something good, maybe even great. The old saying is true, “The bigger you are, the harder you fall” – and we can all think of politicians and celebrities who’ve taken hard falls. But, setting moral and ethical failings aside…
- The player who dropped the ball was actually playing the game, not sitting in the stands…
- The politician you don’t like, actually ran for office…
- The celebrity whose award acceptance speech offended you, actually won an award for their work…
- The artist who took a creative risk, actually created something…
- The activist who fights for a cause you disagree with is actually fighting for a cause…
- The meal you didn’t enjoy, the sermon that offended you, the movie you hated, the class you thought was boring, etc., etc., might have actually been enjoyable for someone else…
The point is, the ones we criticize most, are actually showing up, and probably doing the best they can, for the best reasons they know. No one – NO ONE – always sings in key, or always throws a perfect pass, or always makes EVERYONE happy. For the most part – with some notable exceptions – everyone is doing about the best they can do.
And, here’s a closing thought to ponder. Has criticism ever really inspired you to be better than you are? Or, has criticism just made you feel more insecure and self-conscious? Has it made you more defensive? Hasn’t criticism just made you second-guess yourself more than you already do? If I’m right – and I’m pretty sure I am – who does the criticism benefit, anyway, besides the critic’s own sinful, fragile ego?
Let’s quit being critics. Enough’s enough. And, let’s get in the game.