The Futility of Criticism

As much as we thirst for approval, we dread condemnation. – Hans Selye.

First, what is criticism?

The English Dictionary defines Criticism as The act of criticizing (To either find fault with something or To evaluate something and judge its merits and faults); a critical judgement passed or expressed.

There was this feeling I experienced a few years back. I bet if I would forget how I felt that day anytime soon.

As a young pre-teen or maybe a teen then (can’t really recall the exact age I was), each time I go to the bathroom to take a bath, I would stay so long in the bathroom (so my mum thought, but I always had reasons to defend myself – we’ll get to this soon).

She thought I spent too much time in the bathroom and would often say “What joy do you get in wasting the time enough for two or three persons to bath? What do you even do in the bathroom?” (We know how African mums would hint about a thing that annoys them).

This got her really mad, and each time she would yell at me and criticize my actions, I never found her criticism cool, and at times, I’d defend myself. I never even saw anything wrong in what I did. Most times, I’d make the family go late to church, but I never agreed to that until something happened one day. 

Instead of her yelling and criticizing me like she always did, she called me by my pet name in a sweet way like she does each time she’s happy with me. (This really got to me) “Please, is it possible you hurry up? Is it possible to wash quickly and get dressed?” she said still in her sweet voice.

My whole being immediately turned into a sugar factory. I felt so light and loved. “Why isn’t she yelling like she always did?” It really got to me and from that day onward, I would get into the bathroom, take my bath with the consciousness of time and run out.

At first, I did it to make her happy, which eventually became a part of me.

What is the above story really driving at?

Simple! Humans hate criticism. Yes! As simple as this sounds, it is golden.

Some of us must have noticed how stubborn a kid who is often yelled at turn out to be. Even when the child does something wrong (Yeah, I understand that some of you might come up with the “Spare the rod and spoil the child” line. But first, understand that love covers all)

B. F. Skinner, the world-famous psychologist, proved through his experiments that an animal rewarded for good behavior will learn much more rapidly and retain what it learns far more effectively than an animal punished for bad behaviour. Later, studies have shown that the same applies to humans. By criticizing, we do not make lasting changes but often, we incur resentment.

Truth is, the person we criticize will not see anything wrong with the thing you’re criticizing him/her about.

When I had those little issues with my mum then, I never saw a single thing wrong with what she yelled about. Honestly, I never knew until she addressed the issue with love.

People don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be. By criticizing, we wound the person’s pride, hurt their sense of importance and still not correct the situation that has been condemned. – Dale Carnegie.

One may have several reasons for criticizing. It could be because the person’s idea is totally different from theirs. However, whatever the reason for criticizing is, in the long run, you’d understand that your act of criticism wasn’t called for.

Below is a Summary of the Futility of Criticism

  1. It cuts deep into the victim’s pride and self-worth.
  2. It creates resentment between you and the victim.
  3. Makes the victim defensive. He/she would find ways to defend him/herself.
  4. It pushes people away from you.

One major thing we should note from the above four points is that IT STILL WILL NOT MAKE A LASTING CHANGE!

Next time, consider the consequences of criticizing before you do.

What do you think about criticisms? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below.

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