The Power of Criticism

8 Jun

Criticism is probably the most powerful form of communication, we have at our disposal. Just think about the criticism that you received as a child and the important role it played in determining what you are and what you do today. It is not uncommon for criticism to have been a determining factor in making a career choice, in choosing a particular kind of personal image, or even in selecting a marital partner.

A good example of how the power of criticism might negatively alter the course of a person’s life is found in the story of Earl. He allowed parental criticism to change his life, and to this day he has been plagued with regrets for having done so. Earl was seriously contemplating marriage to a young woman he had been dating for over two years. His parents, with whom he still lived at that time, had never been enthusiastic about his companion but had never expressed this verbally until Earl mentioned that he was planning to discuss marriage with his girlfriend. The dam burst and a flood of criticism about this young woman poured forth. Convinced that his own feelings and observations were faulty, Earl changed his mind about getting married and soon the relationship became static, faltered, and finally ended. Six months later, having moved out on his own, Earl realized that he had made a mistake and tried to pick up the pieces. But by then the young woman was dating another man, whom she subsequently married. Today, six years later, Earl is unmarried and convinced that he missed out on an important opportunity for happiness in his life because of his decision.

Despite being surrounded by a plethora of such examples, many people still seem to deny the existence of criticism in their lives, especially when it originates with loved ones. The positivism of the seventies and the eighties—the “do and be everything” decades—has encouraged this denial. Some people recognize that criticism is with us but wish that it would magically disappear. It is not very nice and it makes them feel uptight. Well, it is here and it won’t disappear because it can’t, so we might as well take the plunge and begin to explore criticism.


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