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Seeking Wisdom, Day 14 – On Criticism

February 20, 2016

(Proverbs 14: 21) It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbors. (Proverbs 14: 3) The words of the wise keep them safe.

There is a human tendency to find fault with nearly everything. Criticism is a universal characteristic for individuals, groups, and nations; but what is the benefit of finding fault with others when it is unlikely they will change? There is little benefit of unleashing the tongue to bring about the impossible.

Wisdom is enshrined in an understanding heart. (Proverbs 14: 33) We cannot expect to fully understand the problems and pain of others. As a teacher, I was expected to criticize and evaluate the work of my students, but I could not criticize them on any other facet of their lives. As an English teacher, I learned much about the adolescents I taught, Their writing and interpretation of literature provided much insight into their characters. Later I worked with special needs teens, learning how difficult academic work is for students who are wired differently. Certainly they deserve a helping hand and a benevolent attitude from parents, teachers, and others. Young people are especially vulnerable to criticism. It curtails growth.

As a senior, I enjoy a writing class where the teacher and other members encourage, but never criticize, the writer on her product. They focus on what the writer does well, what works — and in any attempt there is always something positive to be praised.

The Torah reads, “and he who is unclean calls everyone else unclean.” We are all unclean sinners, for that is the human condition, weak and needy. We don’t see people as they are, but as we are, and we have more in common than not. That is why our tongues should be unleashed only to support and encourage others.

when I think others are selfish, I need to check my own generosity. When I think others are lazy, I need to get busy, and when I think others are proud, I need to look into the mirror. So it is with the imperfections of others: they exist in ourselves. When I see generosity, industry and humility, I need to support them with encouragement and praise.

For a happy life, let’s ¬†understand and support all the wonderful attributes of our family, friends, and neighbors, and even our enemies, imperfect like ourselves.

We pray for wisdom and for insight.




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