How to stop criticizing

“In order to stop pointing out others’ faults, we have to work on our underlying mental habit of judging others. Even if we don’t say anything to or about them, as long as we are mentally tearing someone down, it’s likely we’ll communicate that through giving someone a condescending look, ignoring him in a social situation, or rolling our eyes when his name is brought up in conversation.

The opposite of judging and criticizing others is regarding their good qualities and kindness. This is a matter of training our minds to look at what is positive in others rather than what doesn’t meet our approval. Such training makes the difference between our being happy, open, and loving or depressed, disconnected, and bitter.

We need to try to cultivate the habit of noticing what is beautiful, endearing, vulnerable, brave, struggling, hopeful, kind, and inspiring in others. If we pay attention to that, we won’t be focusing on their faults. Our joyful attitude and tolerant speech that result from this will enrich those around us and will nourish contentment, happiness and love within ourselves. The quality of our own lives thus depends on whether we find fault with our experience or see what is beautiful in it.

Seeing the faults of others is about missing opportunities to love. It’s also about not having the skills to properly nourish ourselves with heart-warming interpretations as opposed to feeding ourselves a mental diet of poison. When we are habituated with mentally picking out the faults of others, we tend to do this with ourselves as well. This can lead us to devalue our entire lives. What a tragedy it is when we overlook the preciousness and opportunity of our lives and our Buddha potential.

Thus we must lighten up, cut ourselves some slack, and accept ourselves as we are in this moment while we simultaneously try to become better human beings in the future. This doesn’t mean we ignore our mistakes, but that we are not so pejorative about them. We appreciate our own humanness; we have confidence in our potential and in the heart-warming qualities we have developed so far.

What are these qualities? Let’s keep things simple: they are our ability to listen, to smile, to forgive, to help out in small ways. Nowadays we have lost sight of what is really valuable on a personal level and instead tend to look to what publicly brings acclaim. We need to come back to appreciating ordinary beauty and stop our infatuation with the high-achieving, the polished, and the famous.

Everyone wants to be loved – to have his or her positive aspects noticed and acknowledged, to be cared for and treated with respect. Almost everyone is afraid of being judged, criticized, and rejected as unworthy. Cultivating the mental habit that sees our own and others’ beauty brings happiness to ourselves and others; it enables us to feel and to extend love. Leaving aside the mental habit that finds faults prevents suffering for ourselves and others. This should be the heart of our spiritual practice. For this reason, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “My religion is kindness.”

We may still see our own and others’ imperfections, but our mind is gentler, more accepting and spacious. People don’t care so much if we see their faults, when they are confident that we care for them and appreciate what is admirable in them.”  Taken from the Daily Life Dharma of Venerable Thubten Chodron.  Thank you for this insight!

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