Popular author, researcher, encourager (and more) Brené Brown prays this daily:
“At the end of this day and at the end of my life, I hope I have contributed more than I have criticized.”
To make sure we’re all starting today’s conversation on the same page, let’s distinguish, as Brown does, between criticism and dissent.
Criticism equates to “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.” Note the emphasis on someone else’s faults or mistakes — in other words, error that’s not mine.
Dissent, on the other hand, reflects “the expression or holding of opinions at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially held.”
Dissent is still disagreement, but it’s thoughtful critique.
Therefore, allow me the not so difficult conclusion that if in our heads we’re thinking, “You’re wrong!” well then, we’re not dissenting; we’re simply being critical.
Unfortunately, as emotion has ramped up in this odd season we refer to as “the year 2020,” we’ve seemed a little quicker with some of our declarations of wrongness on the part of another.
For example, we’ve witnessed many recently who have openly shared…
“You’re not really a patriot if you…”
“You’re not really black if you…”
“You’re not really Christian if you…”
“You’re not really Jewish if you…”
And perhaps the retort that has caused me most recent pause is the individual assertion that “I can’t take you seriously if you…”
I get it. Emotion ramps up. We get rattled.
What I don’t get is the entire focus on someone else. There’s a lack of awareness it seems that the declaration of “I can’t take you seriously” says more about my unwillingness to do the hard work of understanding another than it does about my own level of discernment.
I thus go back to the wise words of my buddy, Brené…
Let me contribute more than I criticize…
Let me be a positive influence on this planet…
How can we possibly do that in these crazy, friction-filled times?
I’ll take a short stab….
Start with a deep breath. Invite conversation. Be respectful. Sit with the dissimilar. Listen more than speak. Refrain from insult. Listen more. Be willing to change your opinion. Stop pointing fingers. Quit demonizing the different. If you’re pretty sure what you’re about to say/post/write will only poke the bear, so-to-speak, don’t poke; it only makes you look lesser and changes no one’s mind. Ask yourself instead: is what I want to say kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? If it’s necessary, ask why; what’s my motive? Am I again focusing on someone other than me? Grow you. Not someone else. Recognize it’s not your job. Be nicer. Love your enemy. Recognize that the wisest people in the world have somehow learned to love their enemy. Rid yourself of your own arrogance and judgment. Know that you can’t see your own perceived faults and mistakes when you’re more focused on someone other than self. We’ve each got faults and mistakes. No better nor worse than our neighbor.
And like Brené Brown, say your prayers. Pray for the different.
It’s hard to criticize those you’re praying for.