Accepting Compliments and Criticism
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
“My good deeds are Thine appointments, and Thy gifts; my evil ones are my offenses and Thy judgements.” St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 10
When I was a teenager, I spent many hours playing and performing music of all kinds and in front of a lot of different people. Often I got feedback from the audience afterwards. “That was beautiful!” “I loved that new song!” or, “Your voice gets very shrill sometimes and hurts my ears.” It was just part of having a public (in a very small town way) life. But I found myself emotionally battered by other people’s opinions – the truth is that I let other’s opinions effect my emotional health.
Along the years, I picked up some helpful advice from another musician, Don Potter, who may be still be making music, I don’t know. I never met him but I heard him teaching about the musician’s (and broadly, the artist’s) way to be creative and resilient despite other’s people projections of what they think you should be or not be. As I remember it, he said:
1. All compliments are like someone giving you a flower. You can take it with gratitude, smell it and enjoy it and hand it off to Father God. “Here God, thank you for this beautiful flower. I know it will wilt but if you care for it for me, I will enjoy it longer.”
2. All criticisms are like someone giving you a can of trash. You can take it with gratitude, look it over for any valuable items and then hand it off to Father God. “Here God, thank you for this garbage – I think I found something worthwhile in it to consider but maybe not. I know you can take this garbage and clean it up and see if there’s something valuable in it. Otherwise, we both know, I don’t need to carry this around.”
I think the point is that holding tightly onto the flower and the garbage will slow me down. Clinging to the flowers (compliments) will cause them to wilt and I'll end up guarding garbage after all while conversely carrying a can of trash (criticisms) around just makes everything worse! SO JUST LET IT ALL GO.
It was so helpful to me know how to humbly accept another’s opinion and expression of satisfaction or unhappiness; how to not personalize it and take it on as part of my identity. It’s been a game changer for me.
I don’t know how it really works with St. Augustine’s thought that I quoted at the start of this post. It’s related but I believe his concern is tied with his own good or evil actions. That’s different than in hearing out someone else’s thoughts on my actions. But maybe it’s the other side of the same coin. What do you think?