"Thank you, Irwin, tea always makes me feel better and you have learned how to make it well." "Thank you, Sir," I replied as I passed the tray of pastries to him. While he picked at his food, he began my lesson, "Son, everywhere you go today, you see frogs criticizing each other for this and that. There's constant bickering and finger-pointing. It's rampant, even on the evening news. I understand that this is a big problem in the human world, as well. Today's lesson is this: A frog's tongue can be more poisonous than a bee's sting. We all have critical thoughts about one another but many of us don't keep these critical thoughts to ourselves. Those frogs, and humans, mistakenly believe that offering their opinions will help the other "misguided" soul to see the light of say. But rarely does that ever work. In reality, Tadpole, those criticisms make things worse and are hypocritical." Dharma explained, "Constructive criticism is fine in the workplace but has little value elsewhere. We are learning that criticizing friends and family can wreak havoc on love and trust. it is believed by many experts on the subject that criticism might actually be interpreted by the brain as a threat to our survival. It can activate the fight-or-flight response." As Dharma spoke, I thought about my own reaction to criticism and it does often make me want to run away....or pick a fight with my accuser. Little brother Quigley acts the same way when I nag at him, too. Perhaps he's on to something...
"Sir," I asked, "does this mean we have to fume in silence if we don't like another's behavior?" "Not at all, Little One," he replied,"what I'm getting at is that we each need to remember that the only frog we can control is ourselves. When we feel the need to criticize others, it's because we know we need to identify the places that need changing in our own lives." Dharma then explained to me that before we jump on our urge to criticize someone else, we need to slow down, take a deep breath and ask ourselves these three important questions first.
1. How am I guilty of the thing I'm criticizing? You may often criticize your loved one for, let's say, leaving their dirty laundry on the floor. You would never do that! But, if you stop and think about it, do you often leave the shared car full of trash and leftover fast food bags or leave the bathroom in a mess after your shower? Finding our own flaws can help to take the proverbial "wind out of our sails." It then becomes easier to replace judgment with empathy.
2. What is my "real" problem? There's a spy technique called 'walk back the cat.' This means to retrace the chain of events to figure out how one thing led to another. When you want to criticize another, think about what is really motivating the complaint. Why here? Why now? You may find out that your complaint is hiding an unhealed emotional wound within yourself. The third question is this.
3. Where can I offer my understanding? You may know by know that criticizing ourselves is about as useless as criticizing someone else. If you "walk back the cat," you will discover that there's someone inside of you who is buried deep in the " rubble of condemnation, filled with pain and fear." healing begins by noticing that our suffering is real and to allow ourselves to feel that pain. When we can do this, love and acceptance of others, and their pain and fears, will overtake the need to continue with our "self-righteous yapping."
Dharma and I finished up our meal and as I began clearing the table, I remembered that it had been a long time since I thank him for his invaluable lessons. I really was truly grateful for the all his years of service. he's taught me so much. I can't think of anyone who is kinder or wiser than Dharma! So I gave him a big hug and thanked him profusely. he seemed almost embarrassed by this sudden display of affection. But, truth be known, Dharma is very important to me. After he left me, I sat down to finish off the last of the tea and began mulling over today's lesson. I am guilty of criticizing others, often for things they have little control over. I now know that it is really me I am criticizing and that the time has come for some deep introspection. I am not perfect, yet I expect others to be. learning to be a little more tolerant of others, and of myself will, I know, go along way in improving my life and my relationships.