Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

Buddhism is not a belief system. It’s not about accepting certain tenets or believing a set of claims or principles. … It’s about examining the world clearly and carefully, about testing everything and every idea. Buddhism is about seeing. It’s about knowing rather than believing or hoping or wishing. It’s also about not being afraid to examine anything and everything…

The Buddha himself invited people on all occasions to test him. “Don’t believe me because you see me as your teacher,” he said. “Don’t believe me because others do. And don’t believe anything because you’ve read it in a book, either. Don’t put your faith in reports, or tradition, or hearsay, or the authority of religious leaders or texts. Don’t rely on mere logic, or inference, or appearances, or speculation.”

The Buddha repeatedly emphasised the impossibility of ever arriving at Truth by giving up your own authority and following the lights of others. Such a path will lead only to an opinion, whether your own or someone else’s.

The Buddha encouraged people to “know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome and wrong. And when you do, then given them up. And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them.”

The message is always to examine and see for yourself. When you see for yourself what is true – and that’s really the only way that you can genuinely know anything – then embrace it. Until then, just suspend judgement and criticism.

The point of Buddhism is to just see. That’s all.

(Extract from “Buddhism plain and simple” by Steve Hagen (Penguin 1997)

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Criticism is a difficult area. Most of us can’t resist giving it, at least occasionally – some habitually – and equally most of us find it hard to take. It can be argued that it is sometimes necessary to point things out – for instance, to children – when behaviour needs to be corrected. Educating children in life is not my strongest suit so I am not going to go into that. My theory here is that criticism of adults does not work, or does not usually tend to achieve the desired result, so it is not a particularly worthwhile exercise.

Someone has upset you with their attitude to you, their behaviour, something they’ve said or done or something they’ve failed to say or do. If you tell them that they are selfish, annoying and thoughtless, the only thing that is pretty certain is that they won’t like hearing it. If they don’t like hearing it, they may either ignore what you say or decide to avoid you because they don’t want to hear any more of your criticism. What is doubtful is that they’ll go from being people you consider selfish, annoying and thoughtless to being people who are altruistic, pleasant, caring and thoughtful because you gave them your opinion of their character or behaviour. ‘Constructive criticism’ sounds better, but doesn’t necessarily achieve a much better result either.

I think feedback is a more useful concept than criticism, though even then it needs to be given with care. It will not always get the result you hope for or consider obvious. It is my belief that you can’t change other people. The only area you can change is yourself. So, coming back to the person you feel is selfish, annoying and thoughtless, maybe you need to work out how that makes you feel and consider telling them that. Then you are giving them feedback about their behaviour, you are imparting information as to the effect it has on you. They have a choice as to whether to make any adjustments and if you put your message across in a way that is not actually critical, you might stand a chance of achieving a change in behaviour in the other person, if they care enough. Another option would be to change your attitude so that their behaviour doesn’t have that effect on you any longer. Yet another possibility might be for you to consider whether you want to have them as a significant part of your life at all. I think any of these three courses of action has a better chance of achieving a change in the behaviour or demeanour of another person, and/or of making you feel better in the long run (which may be more to the point), than criticising the person who has upset you in this way.

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