Friendship and Criticism

friendshipYears ago I had a friend who self-destructed into a bitter and self-absorbed identity that finally made it impossible for me to maintain the friendship. His refusal to listen to his friends and family who were painfully watching his personality take this strange turn for the worse seemed to be merely a reaction to those he considered enemies who were also rightfully suggesting that he was acting like a fool.

So the option to soften up in light of the advice from people who cared about him he completely dismissed due to the fact that the fools on the other side were making the point much less politely. Instead of being an agent with freewill as he claimed he was, he was actually a predictable product of the people he hated.

Well, I must confess, I also have this tendency. Truth can come from any corner, but truth emitted from a hostile corner I tend to ignore out of pride and thereby chain my reactions to the actions of those I dislike. Opposite actions, yes, but not necessarily beneficial, and almost certainly destined to be counter-productive at some point.

So how can a soul prune away vices and graft in virtues that progressively enhances character that will lead to a more enduring and deeper happiness? Introspection does not always cut it. We have blind spots. A lucky soul will have several friends that can provide objectivity by gently dissuading him or her from attitudes and actions that are certain to result in a turn down a darker path.

The more difficult step is to resist the tendency to dismiss the more hostile feedback of fools. The ability to objectively assess the value of an unfriendly opinion and incorporate its value in spite of its source is a skill that will most certainly result in more contentment on a much happier path. And a bonus is the unexpected expansion of one’s circle of friends as some of those once deemed fools soften up in response.

While there will always be those hoping to redistribute their self-loathing to others by way of destructive criticism, thoughtfully assessing what they say and successfully gleaning any truth just might turn them inward enough to assess their own demons.

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