“The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism.”
I have a nasty (yet often rewarding) habit of finding ways to critique nearly everything. Sometimes it really irritates people. They think I’m trying to show off or I’m being pedantic, but I just like progress. One time while critiquing a friend’s opinion he replied, “Steve, you can poke a hole in anything.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment, but I took it as one anyway.
While it’s not always appropriate to show criticism, sometimes it can spark very healthy discussion. That’s usually my goal. I don’t aim to piss people off, but some people will always find a way to take disagreements personally.
On the other hand, I encourage disagreements. I see them as an expression of our diversity as a species. We all have different viewpoints, different knowledge, and different values, so not only is disagreement inevitable, but it helps us to better understand others, as well as better understand ourselves. Being able to tolerate these differences is a huge mark of maturity and intelligence.
That’s why I encourage readers of this blog to feel free to disagree with me. I know I’m not perfect and I know others have different values than me, so I always appreciate it when people share their thoughts in the comment section or on my Facebook and Twitter. It helps me learn new things and see from alternative viewpoints.
As the quote on the top of this page suggests, being able to disagree is a part of your right to freedom of speech and thought. It’s what makes democracies and free societies work. If we all conformed to the norm, nothing could be improved. We would all just settle for the status quo. But upstanding individuals like Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, and Thomas Jefferson didn’t settle for the status quo. They exercised their freedom to disagree even when they were the underdogs. And much of the social progress we take for granted today is a result of that kind of bravery; the kind of bravery that doesn’t succumb to social norms or tradition, but pushes the envelope and later emerges into a new standard of living.
I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes I even get suspicious when someone is always in full agreement with me. I guess I find it hard to believe. They may be just trying to please me, but I’d rather they let their personalities shine through more. We shouldn’t be ashamed to hide our differences, as often they are a sign that both parties have something to learn from each other.
So I’m going to keep this message real short: you have your own mind, with your own thoughts, and your own beliefs and values. Use it! Be willing to express it and also be willing to let others express their beliefs. If you find yourself struggling with taking criticism or others disagreeing with you, try some of these tips on how to take criticism.