Avoiding the low level violence of over-criticising. Change yourself first.

Avoiding the low level violence of over-criticising. Change yourself first.

           Positive criticism. The name  looks a bit like an oxymoron. (Not your ordinary moron, more one with lots of oxygenation).

          In the education field  there’s this dialogue going on about criticism. Some believe in only building the child up with positive reinforcement, praise, encouragement. Then there’s the “spare the rod and spoil the child” camp, for whom nothing moves if you don’t trim the rough edges. Of course both are right. You do need lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement in order for the child to build a healthy self esteem and a positive attitude to life. In order to get there though, you also need a place in your life for solid self-reflection and being open to the possibility of change. And finally build in change into your daily life: there should always be something that you’re “working on”. If you accept that one of the purposes of life on this planet is to move forward towards more maturity, say, then either you change yourself,  or life changes you, or you could well be subject to other’s criticism.

          Benjamin Franklin’s story is very instructive. To improve his own character he devised a system whereby every month he would would work on one of the virtues he might improve. And did. And we all know him as one of the most successful people in modern history.

          I worked at a school called Muki Baum for a time. Excellent program for behavioural, emotionally and developmentally delayed children. What impressed me most was their routine of circle time in the morning, checking in with each other – how they were, what was new and exciting in their lives, and then they were asked: “So what is it you’re working on today, what would you like to change?” And they would each have to think of one thing they were focusing on that day: maybe sitting still longer, maybe not talking when others were talking, etc.  Simple but very effective.

          In a similar vein this exercise of ,“What am I working on today?” should be a given for all school children and hopefully all adults too.

          Edgar Cayce, the so-called Sleeping Prophet, recommended we all self-reflect on our lives as we go along. Otherwise, life has a habit, he said, of actually setting you back on your haunches, and possibly facing the ceiling on your back in traction, wondering what hit you. Many a story one reads about cases of people who were on the wrong track and they end up in a huge trauma, where they can do nothing but self-reflect, see more clearly, and alter.

          One story I heard recently involved a brother of a friend of mine, who by all accounts was a rough sort of character, who treated his wife badly. He got into a huge motorcycle accident, spent months in traction with lots of time for staring at the ceiling and reflecting. He started to notice how his own boys treated their mother, when they all came in to visit him. And “ouch!” he saw himself in their place and realized what an example he’d been setting around the house and began to put two and two together. He arose from his bed some months later a changed man. Hallelujah!  

         More on how to criticize later……                                                                 

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