If you don’t want criticism, don’t stand for anything. – John Addison
Most, if not all, of us go through a phase in our lives where we’ll do ANYTHING to avoid being criticized. This means following the trend, trying not to stick out, and probably condoning a lot of stupid behavior we really don’t like.
My Own Memories
I remember being in 4th grade, in our little private “Christian” school, watching one popular kid in class say really mean or hurtful things to another kid. No one tried to stop him. No one disagreed with him. Several of us didn’t like how he was treating the other kid, but we were afraid of disagreeing with the few that led the herd. Not a proud moment in my life.
I have another memory, either 4th or 5th grade, of one unpopular kid coming to another unpopular kid’s rescue. I watched him stand up for the smaller kid, challenging the popular bully to do something else. Honestly, I wasn’t friends with either unpopular kid. To be honest, they both smelled funny. But I instantly recognized behavior worthy of respect. It was very confusing for a 10 year old because I couldn’t put all my feelings and thoughts into words. But I suddenly respected this unpopular kid. He drew more criticism to himself and protected the other. But he stood strong. And in this instance, the bully backed down.
I saw something I wanted to be like in a kid my own age.
Don’t fight the inevitable
But this quote points out a simple truth each of us needs to come to grips with. Criticism WILL come if we stand for SOMETHING. In other words, if we are going to divert from the herd mentality on any point, criticism is guaranteed. It might be whispered behind your back. It might be tweeted or published on a blog for all to see.
If you passionately believe in something, get it settled in your mind and in your heart now. You WILL feel rejection. Don’t be surprised when you are criticized. Expect and invite it. Know that when criticism comes, you have defined yourself as someone who thinks outside of the herd mentality. Stand strong in your convictions.
However, before you go all opinion-Jihad…
On the flipside, there’s a temptation to justify your position BECAUSE of the criticism. You can slide off into the ditch of arrogance and error by assuming that opposition verifies your stance.
Here’s how the thinking goes: The herd is obviously ignorant or just plain wrong. I am NOT part of the herd. The herd is now persecuting me for my stance on this subject. Therefore, my stance is righteous / moral / ethical / correct.
This is why some cults grow when a leader is assassinated. The inherent belief is that they are special because they are set apart from the herd. They have pulled away from the strong magnetic pull of popular opinion and established themselves in “truth.” Having their leader killed only reaffirms this belief and strengthens their resolve.
So you cannot look at criticism or opposition as proof that you are doing the right thing. That’s ridiculous. But you also should never look at opposition and criticism as proof that you’re doing the WRONG thing.
Criticism can make you stronger
I’m not going to tell you to harden your heart and pull even further away from vulnerability. That’s the opposite of strength, in most cases. That’s just internal paralysis masquerading as strength. If you refuse anyone access to your heart, you’ll only find yourself living a shell of a life.
Criticism can make you stronger when you allow it to expose the flaws in your thinking. If it’s worth taking a stand, it’s worth making sure you’re not in error. If the criticism points out a flaw, be grateful and focus in on resolving the flaw. Heck, you should thank your critic for helping you perfect your stance. If the criticism doesn’t pinpoint an actual flaw, you’ve nothing to worry about.
By all means, stand for something. Just make it worth standing for.