Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Public Criticism

I write this post to point out the fact that public criticism never works, and almost always backfires on those who attempt it. I don't want to tell people not to do it – I know I have no control over that – but the occasional reminder serves a good purpose.

For those of you who don't already know, I'm a member of the LDS (Mormon) faith. As a heads up, a lot of my words today will reflect my Christian beliefs. Also, I'm not talking about any particular incident, merely an accumulation of events. I've waited a long while (several months) before mentioning anything, to be sure my intentions were in the right place. Please send any negative comments to me privately.

It is not very often that I have someone burn or flame another person on my Facebook account or my blog. The last time it happened was a long time ago, I'm happy to say. I'm never sure how to handle it, besides deleting comments and sending private messages explaining why I did so. I hurt inside for those who are the object of public criticism or ridicule, especially when they're members of my family or are close friends. It hurts even more when members of my extended or immediate family or my friends harshly comment on each others' blogs or Facebook accounts.

Dale Carnegie said if you have any criticism or correction to give at all, it must be done in private. We know that our first reaction when angered or incensed is never the right one, regardless of whether it is public or not. And “righteous anger,” as Christ experienced when throwing the money changers from the temple at Jerusalem, isn't applicable now – if ever. Christ was and is the only truly righteous person on the Earth, and therefore, His anger was justified.

Perhaps it is necessary to consider the intent behind any form of public punition. Is it to bring ourselves up in our own eyes? To justify our pride? To show how much more we know than others? Or is it to help the other person? If it truly is for their sake rather than our own, wouldn't it be best if given privately, in lieu of a comment that everyone can read? Regardless of our intentions, pointing fingers and trying to make others look bad or show where they're wrong is always offensive to the Spirit, regardless of how offensive the original comment was.

Please consider the following with me:

  1. “If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.” Thumper's parents really knew what they were talking about. And anyway, suggestions are so much better received when given privately, from the stand-point of really wanting to help. As Christians and God fearing people, our first reaction should always be one of love, patience, and kindness. If it isn't, it is our duty to wait to respond until we can show these Christ-like attributes.
  2. "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still” (Either Benjamin Franklin or Sir Walter Raleigh said this). And we'll never, ever convince someone they're wrong by doing so publicly, in an arrogant, humiliating, accusatory, and prideful manner.
  3. We can't help someone unless they want help, and we're in a position to give it.
  4. “He started it” is never a good reason to retaliate. (Do we even need to consider this? I don't think so. :-))
  1. People read comments, texts, posts, statuses, etc., in the tone of voice they choose, and it usually depends on their current mood. Kindness and politeness can come across as irritation, exasperation, and frustration, and we have no control over this. Which is a reason why, if we're trying to convey important information or any form of correction, one-on-one communication via technology should be avoided. Do it privately—face-to-face, if possible.
  2. Our memories are strengthened by things which cause an emotional response in our system, in effect, making them permanent. This happens because of epinephrine, which “fixes” things in our memory, much like photography developing. We comment in a moment of anger, indignation, or frustration, and in that instance perhaps we really do want to make an impression, so they'll forever remember what we've said. But I promise, there will always come a time when we'll hope it won't pop into their heads the next time they see us. To show my point, I'll never forget the time when a bishop – a religious leader of mine – pulled me aside one Sunday and told me I'd never amount to anything because of the way my parents had chosen to raise me. The emotions caused by what he said permanently branded his words on my brain. (But, ha! He was wrong! :-))
  1. The Internet, especially things posted on social networking or blog sites, is permanent. I read an article once (can't find the post now – if anyone knows to which article I'm referring, please let me know and I'll plug it in) which addressed this, mentioning that many of us cause permanent damage in our places of work, circle of friends, and family – extended and immediate – by making blithe, rude comments which we end up regretting later. And deleting remarks is merely a work-around, not a remedy. There are sites which take “snap shots,” called “change logs,” of everything posted on any site at any time, and anyone can go back through previous days, months, even years, to find something that had once existed. I used to do this for a previous employer.

I hope what I've said isn't taken wrong. I love and appreciate my family and friends, and don't mean to be offensive by posting this note. (We've already heard most of what I've said before, anyway.) We should be working toward building each other up, rather than tearing one another down. And again, I know this won't keep criticisms from being posted, but I hope we'll be more aware of the affect our comments have on others.

Thank you for reading!

Again, please send any negative comments to me directly. . . and privately. :-)


  1. I totally understand this hijita. I have family members that think its okay to be rude, snide, ugly, etc because they are merely expressing a difference of opinion. I am all for civil discourse, and believe that if anything is to come of it that it must be done in a respectful manner. I try to be as understanding and open as possible when expressing my difference of opinion and not to shut others down but to offer another point of view. And invite others to enlighten me if maybe I am not understanding theirs. Im not perfect in this and we cannot control how the best of intentions be read sometimes. But I think a little effort, discretion, and respect goes a long way. Especially in preserving family relationships. For me, this is mostly about discussing politics in my family and a subject of great frustration. I know we dont agree on many issues, and while they may be important issues, I think harmony in our eternal family is more important.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Humiliating another never leads to change. I'm with you. Thumper's parents are oft quoted in our house, too.

    I can't believe your bishop said that, though. What was he thinking?

  3. Thanks for the post. It is a good reminder. If anyone takes offense from it don't take it personally. You can't please everyone... Your story about your bishop reminded me of how much influence we have on each other. We all could use this advice. BTW, I have a lot of respect for your family and enjoy your updates. I will make sure to read your book.

  4. Thank you for posting this. I will make sure a lot of people read around me read it. I fed your fish because they were hungry :)
    BTW... when is your book our in Spanish? "la llave de kilenya"... sound awesome :)

  5. Nicely done. I enjoy your insightful posts.

  6. Excellent post, Andrea. This can never be said enough.