When a person receives criticism or their behavior is challenged, they initially respond in one of two ways:
- They can consider what is being said, weigh the criticism against their own thoughts, and decide whether the information warrants shifting their point of view.
- They can react defensively as though they’re being attacked and put up a wall, rejecting the criticism as though it were an attack.
As humans, I do think that we all naturally respond to criticism or complaint by taking some level of offense and putting up a defensive barrier. Whether we want it to or not, the information does sink in for us to digest. The difference is that for some people this process takes an instant, and with others it is prolonged, or arrested all together.
The amount of time it takes to listen to and process criticism seems to be a matter of what adults refer to as “maturity”. It boils down to a matter of whether one can hear what they don’t want to hear and rationalize that they’re being given an opportunity to reflect and grow, rather than being cut down.
The BLM Protests
Americans confronted their country over the past two weeks, regarding the very real problem of racial inequality and police brutality. Through the act of protesting, we were expressing criticism of our institutions. That is what a protest is after all. Once confronted with this criticism, our president responded as such:
He ignored what the criticism was about, and lashed out at the people for giving it in the first place. He deemed the way we communicated the message as ‘incorrect’ so that he could justify ignoring it all together. He put up the wall.
In an attempt to appear strong-willed and in charge, he came off as tone deaf and lacking compassion. He called on the military to restore order forcefully, without addressing the cause of the unrest. He basically identified our criticism as the problem, rather than what we were criticizing.
Even if the military restores what he insists as “order” and quells the protesting, the problem will not have been solved, because it was never addressed. What he’s doing is basically taking morphine for a gaping flesh wound. If you take a sedative, you might not feel the unpleasant pain of the injury, but you’re still bleeding out.
A person who is unwilling to take criticism is reluctant to change. In a country where so much change is needed, this stubbornness is unacceptable… most of all, from our leaders.
We should remember this as we continue to walk into the unknown this Summer and Fall. Pay attention to how people react. Just as with our own president, it tends to be truly telling who has the capacity to grow, and who is headstrong to stay the same.