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On Criticism

Mar 06, 2007 08:04 PM
by Anton Rozman

On Criticism 

I can recall no criticism of myself which, even though substantially 
true, took into account those extenuating circumstances ever 
following in the wake of all mistakes, those saving graces bearing 
witness to the sunshine however thickly enveloped by the darkness of 
intervening clouds. I can recall no criticism of myself which, even 
though in a measure erring on the side of leniency, envisaged the 
whole of the cause as it sought to demonstrate the effect. I can 
recall no criticism of myself, in other words, which was not partial. 
I am no less sure that any criticism I may make of others must 
equally be no less partial, no less oblivious of extenuating 
circumstances. No less unmindful of the sunshine while intent upon 
the clouds. I am not saying that criticism is never expedient, never 
justifiable. I do not say that criticism may not be on occasion a 
matter of duty. But I do say that criticism is a dangerous 
occupation, for almost without exception it is composed of untruth as 
well as of truth. I also say that ninety-nine criticisms out of a 
hundred are both unnecessary and inexpedient, and that in the 
majority of the ninety-nine there is more of untruth than of truth. 

I therefore say that we should all be infinitely chary of criticism, 
infinitely chary, holding ourselves back from criticism at all times, 
save most emergently, and then observing two rules of criticism: (1) 
making the criticism to the individual who is the subject of the 
criticism, (2) making the criticism to the individual whose duty we 
conceive it to be to know it for the sake of the work. 

Casual criticism is intolerable. Criticism which is not certain to 
reach the individual criticized is intolerable. Complaint against an 
individual which we have no intention of making to his face is 

Can we not minimize criticism (1) by indulging in it most sparingly 
ourselves, and not communicating it to a third party save as we also 
communicate it to the party himself, (2) by refusing to listen to it 
from others, save as a matter of urgent duty? And in all cases might 
we not, as a matter of noblesse oblige, always declare with our 
criticism that we are well aware, and would wish taken into 
consideration, that our criticism must at the most be partial and 
neglectful of circumstances which may go far to justify the matter of 
the criticism, or at least to make it intelligible and not unnatural? 
We know this is true in our own case. We know we are so often the 
subject of misunderstanding. Let us have the grace to recognize that 
in our own criticisms of others this ingredient of misunderstanding 
is likely to be present to no small degree. 
All this means a minimum of criticism, practically none at all; a 
maximum of understanding and appreciation; understanding in place of 
misunderstanding. It also means that most criticism is 
misunderstanding in greater or in smaller measure; that when on the 
verge of criticism we stop, we look, we listen, and then refrain. 
Who is there strong enough to remember to stop when on the verge, 
when on the edge, or the precipice of criticism? The tongue is a 
rebellious member of the body, and so often runs away with all other 
members. Who will keep a rein on the tongue at all times, maintain it 
in servitude and restrain it from its habitual tyranny? Who will call 
attention to the sunshine instead of to the clouds? Who will restrain 
the ear, another unruly member of the body, from hearing that which 
it is hurtful to others to utter? Who has the courage and the 
brotherhood for this? 

G. S. Arundale
Condensed from The Theosophist, April 1933.

I will not judge my brother until I have walked two weeks in his 
Sioux Indian Saying 

Scanned from the Theosophical Digest, 1st Quarter, 1992.

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