This one will be short, however a brief point that no one seems to understand or discern. In the wake of the election, also the endless shouting and accusations of intolerance through media postings, I’m hoping this point awakens in people the insight necessary for argumentation.
Being a critic does not make you right, it makes you a critic.
Alienating yourself from those who are different does not make you righteous.
The public discourse within the United States no longer includes logic or empathy, but a mere might and emotion makes right mode of mentality.
A scene from the movie Thank you for Smoking.
What does this show us? Exactly what the problem is with public discourse. No one is willing to propose an idea or method. Instead, the more attractive and self-fulfilling method is to critique or reduce someone else’s ideas.
Tearing someone else down does not make you higher, you haven’t done anything to step up, only step on someone else.
Again, being a critic doesn’t make you right, it makes you a critic. You are not proposing or affirming a truth by exploiting another person’s flaw. It does not inherently make you a better person for publically attempting to shame someone else.
When the crowd gathered around the woman to stone her for adultery, they gathered around in order to impute judgment for her sins. Paraphrasing what may have been shouted at her that day “you are wrong and this is why!” would be no different than the petty accusations that fly on media forums in order to disprove someone else’s point.
What was Christ’s response translated? Let he who is without fault be the first critic.
Again, you are not making a point by discrediting someone else’s.
Fr. Giussani speaking of Italian young adults decades back: “In that particular environment, I believe there was a tendency to spur young people to use reason in the form of criticism. What was lacking, however, was a sufficiently strong community that could sustain this need for a critical approach and act as a reality check.” The Risk of Education p.45
Yes, a spiritual work of mercy is to instruct the ignorant. However if there is no basis of relationship, or no foundation of tradition for which to hold, criticism only serves as a vessel of divisiveness.
“Only where there are disciples can there be geniuses, because it is only by listening and understanding first that we can hope to achieve maturity, and in turn make judgments, criticize, and even reject the received knowledge that first sustained us.” The Risk of Education p. 53
This is the way our current presidential candidates jab one another, every facebook discussion, the sterilized media methods of commenting on an incident separate from opposing opinion. Discrediting someone’s input in a debate because you deem them less experienced, therefore not worthy of discussion.
It’s all ego. And pointing out un-truth does not give you power over the truth.
It’s quite the paradox that we all “understand” that we are imperfect, yet slap the book on someone when their imperfections can be the fuel to inflame your ego.
The Socratic method of argumentation is much more effective in persuasion than the unfettered skepticism that has become popular. As the book continues, Fr. Giussani goes on to explain that criticism and skepticism are necessary if they are used in the process of verification.
Verifying that which we know to be true in order to solidify actual truth, or be able to walk away from something lesser.
A paradox is the subjective experience of one person is the target of destruction. Subjectivity many times is seen as a negative, because it is always lacking. Yet when you read what Fr. Giussani means, being subjective to something is necessary for maturity. It is in placing ourselves under wisdom that we learn and grow.
It is no coincidence that the word mercy and womb have the same etymological roots. A space for a person to grow into maturity.
If you are critiquing with the goal of un-verifying someone else’s experience without being able to verify your own . . . again, you aren’t a hero, you’re just a critic.
In the spirit of not doing what this article seeks to bring to light:
Many times when I’ve found myself at odds with someone, it’s been more fruitful to ask questions that can guide the conversation. Not in pure manipulation, more in asking questions that frame the conversation in measuring their experience to mine.
So I propose next time you encounter a frictional circumstance, don’t simply wag your finger in their face in admonishment, ask questions that get to the motive of the other person.
Engaging a person with the mode to change them will yield no fruit. But when you tap into the deepest desire of every human heart . . . to know and be known . . . that is where judgment and criticism can be welcome in order to seek verification, truth.
If you have 18 minutes, listen to this presentation, and have tissues near by.
If you don’t have that time now, the main point is that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Change occurs when people realize the truth and seek to amend their life in order to live that truth. The virtues that move man are truth, goodness, and beauty. If you want to move a man don’t simply point at the ways these are lacking in his life, inspire him to see the ways he can have these virtues in his life.
So as the old adage goes: Before you judge (criticize) someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do it, you’re a mile away . . . and you have their shoes.