Criticism : Problem or Opportunity?

“If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.” Yogi Bhajan

If someone upsets us does it make us feel better to say it is their issue not ours? Think about when someone criticises you. Often the first response is to be defensive. We feel attacked; we acted out of our own freedom, it felt right to do or say what we did. Suddenly, as if out of left field, someone takes offence and lets us know that our words or actions are unwelcome.

Yogi Bhajan suggests that their relationship with themselves is the issue, in other words, they don’t value themselves, but we must never doubt our value as a person. We know from experience, as we deal with criticism directed towards us, adjusting our thoughts and feelings, there comes a moment when we restore our sense of value taken away by the other person’s actions. If we do this by thinking there is nothing wrong with us, the problem is with them, doesn’t this mean that we are devaluing the other person?

Another way some people deal with this situation is to say, “We only ever confront self.” This would mean that whatever we see in the other person, particularly negative characteristics, reveals our own character. We could say that this approach increases the value of the other person and can decrease our self-value by exposing our flaws. Is this a better way of dealing with criticism?

What is not clear to us is that Yogi Bhajan’s philosophy has its origins in ancient times, it served an important purpose thousands of years ago when human beings were adjusting to a life disconnected from the wisdom of the spiritual worlds. At that time, it was important for us to value ourselves, never doubting ourselves as individuals. For the most part we have mastered this, in fact, we can overstep the mark by over-valuing ourselves, which we call ego.

At this stage in our development, our task is to respond to life differently. We are learning to use our will consciously. Our will is active if we deal with criticism by examining what is said or done to see if we can learn something from it. We don’t position the blame on the other person or on ourselves, we view it in a higher way, objectively, and we also have a sense of gratitude toward the person who gave us the opportunity to see ourselves differently.

We can even have a sense of compassion for that person who has played the role of the protagonist and in this way revealed a characteristic of our karma formed in a past life by which we can then restore to balance. This means that it is not valuable to “cease to react at all” as the Yogi suggests. If there is no re-action from us, our will is impotent, and the opportunity is missed.

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