Bits & Bytes

Cruel To Be Kind

To many of us, the word “criticism” is not associated with anything pleasant. We appreciate words of encouragement, we love to hear praises, we look forward to pleasantries and niceties; they’re honey to the ears. But criticism? If you’re like most, chances are you avoid criticism like a plague. Criticism hurts, especially if you are a sensitive person. Well, I’m here to say that, despite what you think, a bit of criticism can do you some good.

I had a rare dose of criticism years ago after I submitted a story to a magazine. Back then, there was no Internet. The editor called and summoned me to see him. I was looking forward to the meeting, thinking that it must lead to something big. Surely, it was the break I needed. After all, I had always enjoyed writing, scored good grades in school, and used to being commended by my teachers even for difficult assignments. What possibly could go wrong?

As it turned out, the editor was a no-nonsense kind of person. He went straight to the point. “You don’t know how to write,” he said in a matter-of-fact way, looking at me straight in the eye. “But, you do have the heart and mind to write.”

I was devastated, to say the least. All along, I took pride in being a capable writer.  As I was about to discover, journalism was quite different from academic writing. But that moment when I was told that my writing still had a long way to go was a defining moment in my life, even though I did not relish it at the time. That piece of criticism was the wake-up call I needed that started me on a professional writing journey.

I’m not suggesting that you should accept every single criticism given to you. But I do believe that, deep in our hearts, we know if a criticism makes sense or not. Even if it makes you cringe and burns your ears, tell yourself to calm down, calm down, calm down. Ask yourself: Is there truth in what I am hearing?

There is such a thing as “constructive criticism”, whereby the sender would slip in a few words of encouragement or suggestions for improvements. Bear in mind, though, that some criticisms are utterly destructive; they’re simply harsh remarks with nothing of benefit. If this is what’s thrown at you, best to ignore them. Quite likely they’ll do nothing but strip you of your confidence to be better.

Why am I writing this? If you have been raised in a family and community which emphasised politeness and being nice, know that sometimes, directness, communicating what the other person needs to hear, rather than telling them what they wish to hear, is the right thing to do. It’s a little like raising children; you need to tell them what you need to tell them, even if they don’t like it. It’s about being cruel to be kind.

Healthy criticism is a form of directness; but it is not the same as rudeness. Directness simply means saying what’s in your mind for the sake of the other person’s well-being in the longer run. It’s about choosing to be honest. Total honesty is beyond not stealing, lying or cheating. Rather, it’s about telling the truth, and nothing but the truth. We all have blind spots, obstacles that are hindering us from achieving our goals in life. We might be repeating the same mistakes over and over, without realising it. By accepting positive and constructive criticism, we choose to face reality and take that first step to rectify our mistakes, bringing us closer to what we truly want to achieve in life.

Featured Image: Victoria_Art

About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 543 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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