FMM 2 24 2023 Primary Intention

“It is not the critic who counts…” Theodore Roosevelt.

This Friday morning, my message will be brief, for a variety of reasons.  I have been reflecting on how difficult it can be, when you are a people pleaser from childhood, to be criticized.  It feels personal.  When I was in a position to be making decisions and organizing events, I could always hear my inner voice (who sounded a lot like my mother) reminding me of how I could have done better, I should have anticipated that problem, then everything would have turned out better.

Of course, the desire to be excellent is often confused with striving for perfection, which we all know is impossible.  But the people pleaser somehow believes that perfection is possible, and when it is not attained, it must be our fault.  Fortunately there are many people out there who are far more forgiving, who recognize the effort that went into the preparation for big events, and reminds the anxious event planner that in the end, it is the emotion the event creates that matters, not whether the centerpiece choices could have been better.

I recently read a cautionary tale about a Buddhist monk, who was given the task of teaching a young woman.  When she becomes pregnant, her parents come and angrily berate the monk for having taken advantage of their daughter. His response was: ‘Is that so?’  Some years elapse, and the young woman eventually confesses who the true father of the child was.  The parents go back to the monk and inform him of their error, letting him know that he in fact was not the father of the child.  The monk’s response was: ‘Is that so?’

I marveled at the self-control of the monk in the story. When we are falsely accused, when we are treated with injustice, we often bitterly complain to anyone who will listen, sharing our side of the story.  Or perhaps we did inadvertently set off a chain of events, with no malice aforethought, yet people along the way were offended.  As another wise person pointed out, we often judge others by our perceptions, yet want ourselves to be judged by our intentions.  How much better could life be if we treated criticism with an unemotional ‘Is that so?’  How much more compassionate could we be if instead of rushing to judgement we gave others the benefit of the doubt, since we usually do not see the full story.

On this Friday morning I wish everyone the peace of mind not to take criticism personally, but to seek to learn from it.  I wish those who choose to play the role of critic to be more mindful in their comments, knowing that they are not the ones putting themselves out there.  The full Theodore Roosevelt quote is powerful, and always bears repeating: ‘“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Have a wonderful weekend, Family!

One Love!


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