Buddhist Views About Criticism

Buddhism is a spiritual path that encourages followers to renounce attachment to the world and find a more beneficial method of dealing with everyday interactions. Buddha taught that it was critical to counteract the everyday emotions that can cause stress and conflict. The Buddhist beliefs regarding criticism reflect this idea of preserving harmony and avoiding harm to others.

Criticism and Anger

When people are criticized, the criticism often stirs feelings of defensiveness and anger. These feelings can also short-circuit any self-examination that can lead to improvement. Criticism of others often stems from judging others’ conduct too quickly. In finding others deficient in some way, people reassure themselves that they themselves are right. Both of these reactions are in error. Buddhism teaches a more thoughtful analysis of others’ actions, and a quieting of self-defensiveness in order to consider the situation more carefully and react more appropriately.

On Accepting Criticism

Many people find it difficult to accept criticism, especially when it is unfair or misrepresents the true circumstance. When training in Buddhist beliefs, people strive to control their immediate negative reaction to consider how why the person criticizing would think this. They try to put themselves in the other person’s position to determine what miscommunication or misunderstanding might lead them to the incorrect criticism. A serious Buddhist might also examine his own actions to determine if he is, in fact, at fault in some way. Perhaps some word or action led to the criticism or misunderstanding. In this way, Buddha taught people to control their anger and increase their insight into other people.

On Giving Criticism To Others

Buddha taught that humans’ basic perceptions are incorrect. They may not have the full information and may be jumping to a conclusion based on self-interest or misunderstanding. Buddhists are encouraged to ask: “Is it true?” They are more likely to try to get more information before making the criticism to ensure that they have understood the situation correctly. Buddhists also try very hard not to incite anger. If they find it necessary to criticize to save someone from error or harm, they attempt to do so in a mild and informative way, always trying to avoid arousing defensive reactions. A Buddhist will ask himself: “Is it kind?” Finally, a Buddhist will ask himself: “Is it necessary?” Will not questioning the action lead to some kind of harm to the person or those around him? If so, then it is incumbent in Buddhism to say something to prevent harm to others.

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