This article is somewhat inspired by one of Jordan Peterson’s chapters in his new book titled: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. It is not an addition to or a review of this chapter, but my thoughts hearing this statement.
It is very easy to criticize others. We always “know” what we would have done and it all seems so obvious to us and why cannot they just apply some common sense? What we tend to forget are two things. Firstly, we can assess and criticize in hindsight. That is pretty easy and pretty unfair don’t you think? Secondly, we tend to forget that we all have a list of things that are not going particularly well in our own lives.
If my relationship is messy, then what right do I have to criticize another relationship. There is a difference however. I can be concerned for another relationship and speak about it with the respective people. But I cannot criticize it without asking myself the question how my relationship is doing and where I mess up frequently. Everything we want to criticize should always be followed by the question: How do I do in this regard? This should make us humbler.
Furthermore, even if we criticize things we cannot really ask this question, such as politics, it still makes sense to take a look at our own lives first. Often, we carry an internal anger with us. Somewhat chained, waiting to be unleashed to release this anger and tension. Then, a good question is: Why am I angry and where does this anger come from?
Moreover, those are often things we have no control over. Criticizing and being angry is therefore just a waste of energy. What we could do however is have a look at our lives. What is not going well in my relationship? With my partner, kids, family, and/or friends? How satisfied and content am I with what I do for a living? What about the relationship with my boss and colleagues? Do I follow my dreams, or do I resent myself and life because I gave up on those?
I know it is way easier to criticize others. Looking at your own life and see where you struggle is uncomfortable at best and excruciating at worst. But this is what is in your realm of control. This is how you can change your life and become less angry. And it is also not about not criticizing anymore. But until we are not really happy with our own lives, it is kind of hypocritical.
For example, I shouldn’t be a relationship coach. At least not now. Sure, I see things and I understand things and I might be good at how to communicate, but my relationship failed. I need to further work on myself before I have any right to criticize. And even then, I doubt I have the right.
However, it is also not good to strive for perfection. Because there is no such thing as perfect. Sure, we can strive and should strive for becoming the best version of ourselves, but we will still have our flaws. The goal is to find a good balance. Knowing something and seeing something that other could potentially help but not saying anything because you are too critical of yourself is also not a good solution. Sure, you still ask the question how you are doing in this regard, but if you can say that you are doing well here, then why not sharing your insight. Just be aware that other people might disagree with you.
I think we would all live in a much nicer world if we focus on our own houses and start to renovate and rebuild those first =).
Take care, Stephan