Friday, December 11, 2009

Criticism, How to Take It

According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, including multiple life change units for multiple occurrences of the same major life event (i.e., +25+25=+50 for moving twice instead of just +25 for moving), my fiancée and I each score around 1200 for the past year, on a scale where anything over 300 LCU indicates a high-risk of mental illness. Amidst all this personal life change, I noticed something about life change: periods of life change tends to involve a lot more criticism than periods of life stability. From this observation, I began to think about criticism in general. I've noted a few things.
  • Criticism can be very useful and very helpful.
Whether criticism comes from oneself or from others is irrelevant to this point (perhaps irrelevant to all points). To improve anything, we need to know that something needs to be improved.
  • Criticism can be very hard to take.
Even though I almost always appreciate criticism, and I am always looking for ways to improve, specific instances of criticism still often makes me mad.
  • Some criticism is worthless, useless, pointless.
I never welcome criticism of non-flaws, such as gender, race, height, or appearance. I think criticism is not even an appropriate word in these cases.
  • Criticism often meets a harsh response, even if such criticism is warranted and helpful.

  • Criticism is often accompanied by suggestions, only some of which are worthwhile.
Some critics of Sarah Palin suggest that John McCain should resign from the United States Senate for choosing her as his presidential running mate. Palin was only 22 when McCain was first elected to the Senate. She was only 18 when he was first elected to Congress. She was only 9 when he was released from North Vietnamese war prison. She was only 3 when he was captured. His choice of presidential running mate does not affect his abilities as a Senator, a Congressperson, or as a person dedicated to the United States. At most, his choice of 2008 running mate rendered him inappropriate as 44th President of the United States. McCain is not the 44th President. Some useful suggestions might include "Don't choose Sarah Palin as your running mate" and some preferable alternative running mates for future potential presidential campaigns. To resign from a different job because of such a criticized choice would be silly and inappropriate.
  • Critics are often themselves critized or attacked in the guise of criticism.
"Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym. Those who can't teach gym, criticize," is a ridiculous aphorism, mostly untrue on each count. Surely exemplars exist for each statement, but these statements are hardly rules to live by. After spending a nearly insignificantly brief time thinking about criticism so I could write this article, I have come to realize that criticism is one of the most important actions that anyone can do. Also, anyone can criticize.

Now that I have begun thinking about criticism, I doubt I will ever stop. The topic fascinates me, especially the duality of its inherent helpfulness and unpleasantness. Whenever you are criticized, try to remember to appreciate the criticism (unless the so-called critic is just attacking a (some) non-flaw(s)). And please, criticize me often.

For more information about criticism, visit or visit your local library.