"You are the biggest disappointment since the death of my cat!"
"You are her favorite teacher of all time!"
"You are her worst nightmare of a teacher!"
"Your message and card were perfect for how I'm feeling; thank you!"
"Your message on that card sounded like you think I'm not doing my job; thanks a lot!"
At some point in each of our lives we encounter the "cousins" I've illustrated with these quotes. We've all experienced moments of praise from others. And if you haven't experienced some criticism I wonder if you're paying attention.
Many years ago, I was sharing with a mentor how perplexed I was by the ability of some to extol our work but then turn right around and also express severe disappointment. I went on to tell that it was easy to believe the good things they shared but oh so painful to hear the criticism.
My friend listened patiently until I could totally unpack my rather large suitcase of emotional struggles. Then came some of the most simple yet profound advice I've ever received.
"Sheri, flattery and criticism are cousins; two sides of the same coin. Be cautious of both." She paused for me to make a note. "You're never really quite as wonderful as some want to say. But you're also never quite as horrible as others want you to believe."
For almost thirty years now I've been reminding myself of this truth.
Something in each of us longs to be seen at our best. We want people to perceive us as smart, kind, creative, loyal...... you can add your own adjectives. And when someone recognizes a good deed we've done or an encouraging word we've shared, it makes us glad.
Nothing wrong with accepting someone's genuine gratitude. Thank you should be a phrase we all use and hear with liberality.
The problem comes when we begin to need those words of praise in order to feel good about who we are. Ask yourself this question, "Can I serve even if no one sees or acknowledges what I've done?" HMMMM! Tough one.
By the same token, we can not allow the disappointment and frustration of others to shape or define who we are. Remember, you're never quite as horrible as they want to make you feel.
And no one is in charge of your feelings except YOU.
My mentor went on to explain, "There is almost always an element of truth in both praise and criticism. You must learn to sift through all the fluff, recognize the kernel of truth and take that to heart." A pause for more note taking. "Acknowledge there are things you can/should change; then work on them. And feel free to enjoy a moment of encouragement; then tuck it away and move on."
Not real sure why it felt important to share this truth with you today. But hopefully it will be a help for you as it has been for me.
Praise and Criticism; Same Coin. Find the kernel of truth; tuck it away; move on.
In other news:
- Today our little Zachariah Avery Schreck is two years old! How can that be?! His huge eyes and dimpled smile melt every heart around him. He giggles and laughs more than he cries. And although the term "tiny tank" comes to mind when thinking of him, he's extremely tender with baby Ava.
- Kristin had her first experience with stitches last night. While helping friends unpack in their new home, the knife she was using slipped and gouged a deep opening on the side of her hand. Five stitches; an invitation to church for the doctor (new to our area) and another bonding moment with her dear husband.
- Frank will get to fly a plane today for the first time ever. (This will be a post all its own next week.) As part of his 60th birthday, I bought an hour lesson/experience that was offered at our local airport. The instructor will show him what to do then hand the controls over to Frank! We're both pretty excited.