Have we earned the right to criticize?

When we see someone doing something that seems wrong to us, we often feel the urge to criticize and correct them. We may feel we have the right to criticize because we are more knowledgeable than them, and that we can clearly see that what they are doing is wrong. 

However, our criticism can turn out to be counterproductive, whereby the other person ends up with a bruised ego or even a wounded heart. This is especially true when we share spiritual wisdom with others, because people often think of spirituality as an optional activity and they often see spirituality as relative without anyone being a conclusive authority therein. Pointing to such effects of critical words, the Bhagavad-gita (17.15) states that discipline of speech begins with avoidance of agitating words. 

Even if we are experts, the person we are criticizing needs to acknowledge our expertise, which usually happens when they see firsthand our ability to do things expertly. And for earning trust, often more important than expertise is empathy. People become more receptive to critical words when they feel that those words are coming from a caring heart. Through courteous, cultured conduct, we can show them that we are their well-wishers. At the deepest level, we become others’ well-wishers (12.13) when we connect devotionally with the one who is everyone’s greatest well-wisher (05.29). Additionally, it’s critical to understand that the right to criticize is not a permanent asset — we start losing it if our actions come off as incompetent or our words come off as judgmental. 

By thus carefully earning and preserving credibility so that others see us as both well-wishers and experts, we can express ourselves appropriately and effectively. 

Think it over:

The right to criticize is earned only after much effort and is lost without much effort.

One-sentence summary:

  • Why do we need to earn the right to criticize?
  • Why is earning the right to criticize especially important in the spiritual field?
  • In your important interactions with others, how can you earn the right to criticize?


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1 Comment

  1. Caretaker is the best critique

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