Within the framework of enjoining what is good and preventing what is evil, taking an effective approach towards people’s mistakes is important. If we do not evaluate the balances and factors involved well, the results may be counterproductive.
Criticism is to see the positive and negative aspects of a situation, item, person or behaviour and to expose them to other eyes and minds. In this article I will cover the criticism in human relations, but not scientific, philosophical or literary criticism. Criticism in human relations may be divided into two categories, positive (constructive) and negative (destructive, damaging) criticism. The criterion of determining which criticism is positive or negative is to know who criticizes whom, when and to what extent. Though the criticism is the same, if you change one of the constituents above a positive criticism may turn into a negative one.
While explaining the principles of sincerity, Imam Bediuzzaman expounds the second principle as follows: “This is
not to criticize your brothers who are employed in this service of the Qur’an, and not to excite their envy by displaying superior virtues.” Here, what the Imam refers to is negative criticism. Again, in the book of Letters, he forbids his students to use negative criticism with the following statement: “Avoid opening the door of criticism for each other. There are more things to criticize outside other than your brothers.” Generally, those who criticize most do not see their own faults and deficiencies.
Negative criticism causes material and spiritual damage both to the critic and the criticized. The damage to the critic is as follows:
- Since he always criticizes others, he is unable to realize his own faults and deficiencies.
- He thinks that he will progress by finding and exposing the faults of others.
- He is not loved by people since he is always examining their faults. There may even be some people who hate him and hold a grudge against him.
- He cannot enjoy his life since he is always focusing on faults, mistakes and negative points.
- Through his constant criticism, he may gossip about other people and he may have ill intentions towards others.
- Since he evaluates everything from his own perspective, he may fall into trap of the egotism.
We can enumerate more damages. There is also damage to the one who is criticised;
- He feels nervous and stressed psychologically.
- The probability of his making mistakes increases.
- Later, he may also begin to criticize others.
- He loses his self-confidence.
- Because of the destructiveness of the style and manner of speech, the negative behaviour may actually be strengthened in his character instead of being corrected.
- He may gradually become isolated and alienated.
As can be seen, negative criticism may cause irreparable damage to both the critic and the criticized. Then, what should be done;
- First of all, we have to question ourselves, which is called self-criticism or interrogating the soul that calls to evil in Islamic terminology.
- We should think empathetically, and think how I want to be warned if I make such a mistake.
- We should criticize not the character of the person or the event itself, but just the faults and deficiencies in them.
- First, we need to stress the positive and good aspects of the person and his character or the event and then draw the attention to the faults in a positive manner.
- We should evaluate the position of the person and the situation and time and if it is not appropriate, we should postpone the warning to a more appropriate time.
- If the person gets into the position of defending the mistake, we should climb down and if necessary change the subject.
Attention should be paid to all these methods and strategies while dealing with the mistakes and faults of other people. From the perspective of the criticized person, for example, let us imagine that we are warned, but the critic does not do this in an appropriate manner and he is aggressive. In such a situation, we should not defend our mistake and we should actually thank him for warning us and correcting our mistake.
Those who are engaged in negative criticism and who disturb people around them through an aggressive approach are ones who see their own negative aspects on the other people and attack them. The situation is expressed comprehensively by a thinker as follows, “If you want to help people with all your heart and succeed finally, then you can criticize them, and this criticism will be a positive one.” Otherwise our criticism will be futile and furthermore we will gain enemies.