Before Criticizing

photo from Microsoft Office Image

I am not so much into reading newspaper or watching news, although I still keep myself updated periodically since I have my internet access. For two years, aside from breaking catastrophes in the country and in different parts of the globe, controversies particularly here in the Philippines have erupted like volcanoes, and stirred our minds with curiosity, speculation, intrigue and suspense–things that are often fictionalized in local many soap operas.  Now, we have heard  a lot of commotions: sex scandals of known models and actors; church versus state over disputed bills; protests against the church; electoral frauds of previous regime; whistle-blowing corruptions in the military; a questionable national award; a child abuse caused  by a variety show host; an offensive contemporary art; a student who drove in the middle of the flood; a student who maltreated a cat; a Korean actress and her unjustified remarks about Filipinos; and many more. They were once headlines, and they all created a wide audience thirsting for new gossip topics in their daily jobs and chores.

With more than 20 million internet-savvy Filipinos, there is now a new crowd who virally spreads the news. Along with that is a new strain of contagion: in the age of social networking sites like Facebook, people from all walks of life have now the power to voice out their thoughts and the freedom to be heard. They commented, suggested, debated and argued over many of the heated topics I have mentioned, and perhaps would do the same thing once the latest news springs up. As I scanned some of these reactions, I cannot help but notice a common thread of emotions that string all these controversies.  People react with anger, vilifying the people whom they perceived as the author of these unwanted stories. Most of them vent out their hatred, mockery, curses, insults and all sorts of acidic words that they can throw with full confidence, hoping to justify their emotions as an enough revenge against the accused person.

The first question you must ask yourself before criticizing is “Do I see the other with Love?”

I would presume that this is how we define criticism: its like a weapon against a perceived enemy. Since most of us do not opt to wield any literal weapon, we use words instead. And many of us are swayed by this snowball effect, as we all feel the same hatred and cast the same curse towards those who deserved to be punished. We have all become critics and have trained our eyes to find the fault of the other; thus, we are a “critical mass”, people who are always critical of anyone and anything.

Somehow, we have forgotten what criticism really means. In the early days, criticism was first used in literature. It is considered as an “art of estimating literary worth”. Ask the scholars and they will tell you that criticism has been misconstrued as a faultfinding attitude, too far from its true balanced intention of seeing the strengths and weaknesses of what or who is being criticized. Today, the word criticism is burdened by negative connotations. To criticize is now a form of retaliation, at least in words. Still, those who are being retaliated incurred deep wounds in their souls.

photo from Microsoft Office Image

My take on this modern meaning of criticism is this: it is alright to identify the shortcomings and mistakes of the other. This truly helps the wrongdoer to change, and the rest would benefit from his or her realizations. Their actions are irreversible, but our response to their actions is as malleable as gold. We all know that all controversies are noisy and annoying, and the world has had enough reactions to bear. In our hands lies an important choice before criticizing, and that is to recognize first the humanity in the person subject to criticisms. How does it feel to be in his or her place? What if I walk in his or her shoes?

Its always true that this perspective might be the most challenging to do, but it rewards you with a considerable freedom from internal struggle, and an overwhelming sense of compassion. This is not just about the center of attention, but also to those who give that attention. How we respond using this simple tool will help us curb our automatic tendencies to find the wrongs, and begin to see the overall presence that any person, thing, event or situation shows us.  The first question you must ask yourself before criticizing is “Do I see the other with Love?”. Love may lead you to an answer that is illogically unprecendented–there is nothing to do, until your heart tells you so. See the other like the way you will see yourself. Thus, you put justice as you put balance in your perspective.

In the end, the controversies, issues, and the unnecessary noises remind us to listen to the message of Love. We eventually forgive, empathize, and heal them and ourselves. We will begin to estimate the worth of the other’s work and presence. We will begin to see them first as humans who happen to forget to live out Love. Our Loving response is a simple antidote to their forgetfulness. We remember the essence of Love for them. Before criticizing.

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