Cynicism and Principled Criticism
Finding fault with people and negating their personality are one of the greatest defects of our society and these characteristics are prevalent among all its various classes. Anyone who makes an innovative move or starts something new immediately attracts criticism and disapprobation from every quarter and group, though the critics should lack all competence to give an opinion and judgement concerning the matter. Without anyone making a study of the new venture or inquiring into its character, the innovator is assailed by a flood of criticism from every side. Dale Carnegie writes:
The late Johan Wanamaker confessed: I learned thirty years ago that it is foolish to scold. I have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations without fretting over the fact that God has not seen fit to distribute evenly the gift of intelligence. 2
Principled and proper criticism is undoubtedly one of the beneficial methods of reforming society. But what is unfortunate is that most criticism is made without due consideration and study. This is itself an injustice and a violation of others' rights which blocks the way of change and innovation, as this vice of society may discourage even the strongest of individuals in his efforts and make him feel despondent.
According to psychologists, criticism of others and finding fault with them often reflect the critic's own shortcomings and inadequacies which he unconsciously projects on to others. In this regard they say:
In general, criticism and censure of others' actions and lapses mostly derive from our own shortcomings of which we are not aware. We observe these inadequacies in others because unconsciously we sense their presence in ourselves. The wise and positive person does not spend his time criticising and blaming others, for he is always engaged in doing something positive and beneficial. The critics rarely belong to the class of creative and productive individuals. In fact, the art critics in their criticism of others' art implicitly criticise their own work. The experts who always show the 'practical way' are mostly theoreticians who have faced practical defeat.
Undeserved and unreasonable criticism mostly results in violation of rights and destroys the permanent value of everything. A source of intense dissatisfaction is traceable in persons who make unjust and unjustified judgements of whose unfairness they are themselves unconscious. The inner dissatisfaction is transferred from inside such a person to the outside and spoils the worth of everything. We observe such a kind of reaction especially in persons whose life has been spent in despair and defeat and to whom the whole universe appears as futile and counterfeit. Their criticism of things and other persons derives from personal dissatisfaction. They dislike today what they used to like until yesterday, without realising that this hatred is not related to external reality but springs from their own spirit. Pessimism and hostility are in fact due to the drying up of the mainsprings of love within man. 3
Even in cases where the good act is part of someone's duty, it must be appreciated and commended and the dutiful person must be thanked and his work appreciated. That makes him perform his duty with greater dedication and carry out his responsibilities with further zeal, constancy and conviction.
Several years ago I was in one of the famous cities of Iran. One day there was a failure of electric power due to some technical fault in our area. I phoned the manager of the electric company and requested him to take steps for removing the fault. After a relatively long interval, electricity was restored to the network. I again contacted the manager to thank him and appreciate his action. At first when he spoke there were visible signs of annoyance and reticence in his voice, but after that he heard me thank him he was so affected that his voice suddenly became animated quite perceptibly. With a great liveliness mixed with surprise he asked me, "Who are you? This is the first time since I have been in charge of the company that someone has appreciated my work!" In reply I told him, "Unfortunately, or fortunately, I do not belong to this town. I wanted to appreciate you for having done your duty." Then he expressed his wish to have a closer personal contact.
After that time whenever electricity failed as a result of some fault in the decrepit network of the area, as soon as I would inform him he would eagerly and heartily take immediate steps to remove the fault, which would be done in a short time. On making an inquiry I came to know that this person had been the company's top man for several years and during this long period of time not even once had he received any note of thanks or appreciation for his efforts.
2. Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends (New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1937), p. 27.
3. Strecker, Wilkerforce & Appel, Rawanshenasi baraye hameh, trans. Mushfiq Hamadani, pp. 259-257.
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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