Should criticism always qualify as hate?
There is such a thing as constructive criticism. And it’s a far cry from hate.
A few years ago, Collins English Dictionary designated the term ‘snowflake generation’ as one of its words of the year. A pejorative moniker for the young adults of the 2010s, it was understood to reference their supposed lack of resilience and knee-jerk compulsion for taking offence, as compared to previous generations.
Four years on, this hypersensitivity to being challenged — on absolutely anything — appears to have spilled over across demographical boundaries. The young and the not-so-young alike now seem to harbour an equal antipathy for dissent. It’s a strange world when any expression of differences in opinion immediately devolves into snippy accusations of ‘hating’.
On one level, one could almost sympathise. Modern society has been on a dogged drive to ‘right the wrongs’ of generations gone by. And so, in trying to combat discrimination and shaming, everything today needs to be a celebration. In trying to advocate individualism, truth — once immutable — is now relegated to the realm of the subjective.
But zeal has turned drive into overdrive. And what’s happened as a result is that we’ve overshot the mark. You see, not all criticism qualifies as hate. Some things may be hard to hear, but they may be exactly what we need to stimulate growth.
I once read an article titled Find a Friend to Wound You. It’s been years since I first came across it, but it continues to (as they say) live rent-free in my head to date. Good friends, the writer argued, are like EMTs (emergency medical technicians) who will rip open our carefully crafted excuses and “wound us for our good”.
We are all guilty of nursing serious blind spots when it comes to our own flaws. Celebrating ourselves can be a great tool in developing healthy self-esteem, but it would be wildly inconsistent if it came at the cost of personal growth. ‘This is me’ cannot continue to be our theme song when we’re forced to confront shortcomings.
Personal growth is hard work. It’s uncomfortable, it’s slow — and it hurts. Having to accept that you’re not all you thought you were cracked up to be is often hard enough; trying to ride out a difficult learning curve even more so. That’s why ‘This is who I am’ has become a convenient retort.
But I’ve seen the other side. Folks who, for lack of ever allowing another to tell them where they were going wrong or what they needed to change about themselves, have reached the final quarter of their lives — but cannot explain why people are never forthright with them.
There is such a thing as constructive criticism. And it’s a far cry from hate. We just need to be able to tell the difference.
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