Criticism That Actually Makes a Difference
“I criticize by creation, not by finding fault.”
It’s true that it’s really easy and even fun to jump on the bandwagon of your negative cause (“Stop drinking soda!” or “That girl needs to wear more clothes!” or whatever) but have you noticed that that just doesn’t make a difference? Nothing changes when someone says those things.
One year at a family holiday, we had a friend over who complained about and criticized the government non-stop. By the end of day, we were so glad to see her gone AND we were about ready to move out of the country; life felt so hopeless and terrible! Did it help her to get that off her chest? I don’t think so, because she was always going on like that. On and on.
Enter this wonderful idea of just making things better through our unique and differing abilities to be creative! I see this in my husband, Dale. He will come up with some interesting question or activity for a table-full of guests and just watch as people catch hold of the idea and run with it. It’s so fun.
A friend who is a widow and who spends her time quietly in an assisted living facility near me, told me how she buys a new calendar each year and each day writes something she’s thankful for on it. She said that the first year after she lost her husband, she found that calendar so comforting as the Christmas season came, and she missed him more than ever. I think that is a small act of creation; yes, of gratitude as well, but she was creating a space to remember and look for what she was thankful for. She didn’t sink into despair.
That’s part of what I’ve been thinking about: it doesn’t have to be monumental creative acts. It doesn’t have to be curing cancer or solving world hunger, necessarily. Mother Teresa, who actually has critics (I had no idea she did…I just learned this today and my mind is blown) and who created small moments of service every day, is a powerful example. She didn’t solve world hunger but she fed a lot of people. I find in that fact this truth: that no matter what creative act you do with your time, you will have critics, too. Do it anyway.
The thing is, it’s not safe and that’s why it’s more popular to be a critic. We all know this temptation: the easy route of standing on the side lines spectating rather than getting involved in the actual work of life. But if you can get a glimpse of what really living looks like - that it’s a creative act in myriad ways - then that is the moment you will take a problem that bothers you and are tired of just saying it should be different, and you will find a wonderfully quirky, uniquely you-way, to make it better. That’s criticism that will make a difference.
Personally, I just want to spend less energy on dumb things and more time on making things around me lovelier, kinder and more helpful. I've wasted enough time finding fault.