As I sat down to contemplate writing the last newspaper column of my college career, I found that I was stuck. What topic would be most appropriate for a last column? Should I talk about saying goodbye? Should I give deep words of wisdom for my fellow peers at Rocky Mountain College? I couldn’t decide. Finally, as I was sitting in the Student Union Building, chatting with friends and catching up on the latest news, inspiration struck – and it came in the form of (accidentally) overhearing a couple of (unknown) girls talking about how much they hate me. Yes, you read that right – apparently, Sally and Sue (as they will be referred to in this column) hate me. This is perfect, I thought to myself. I’ve finally found the topic for my last column – the issue of criticism.
Criticism, as feedback, is a valuable tool. Used properly, criticism can help to push people towards greatness, make them better at their jobs, and can ultimately point out areas where we can improve ourselves in all areas of life. I have received helpful and effective criticism from professors, bosses, and even friends. Although, at times, their honest comments can sting a little, I am reassured by the fact that they are offering critiques because they know that I am capable of doing and being better.
However, criticism can also be used to hurt others. Criticism used for evil can humiliate people, degrade them, and destroy their self-esteem. Criticism, often disguised as gossip, that is unconstructive, unhelpful, and given only to cause upset and hurt can really do damage to the receiver. In my case, Sally and Sue’s words hurt; I mean, how could they not? For someone you’ve never met before to say they hate you is a pretty strong statement. What did I do wrong? How did I offend someone that I don’t even know? After thinking about it for a while, I realized that their criticism was not a reflection of me, but rather a reflection of Sally and Sue. Their criticism had no meaning behind it; it wasn’t meant to be useful, but only meant to cause pain and distress.
I am lucky – I was raised to always believe in myself and my actions, and to brush myself off when life gets tough and move on. But not everyone is as fortunate. There are people here on campus, and out in the world, who can truly be hurt by such vitriol and hate speech. If anyone pays attention to the news, you can see that the consequences of gossip and bullying can be quite dire. Do you really want to be responsible for someone’s potential suicide, or even for just causing them to have a terrible day?
Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion – but you don’t have a right to be outright hateful and mean to other people without consequence or thought for how it affects them. I guess the ultimate point of this article is directed towards anyone who has also received, or accidentally overheard, bad criticism about themselves. To you, I say this: there is a difference between people who offer constructive criticism because they want to push you and make you better, and people who are jealous and insecure and want to see you fail. Don’t let hateful people determine the path that your life takes. They are lashing out against something that has gone wrong in their own lives, and instead of hating them for it and trying to fix ourselves when we’re just fine as we are, we should feel sympathy for them. Perhaps they have received terrible criticism about themselves, and this is the only way they know how to deal with it.
As we travel along our college career paths, and eventually venture into the real world, there will be people who seek to hurt and injure with hurtful criticism. Be confident in the fact that you are the one who knows yourself best; their critiques don’t matter. Don’t let bad critics determine your life. Stay true to your path. No matter what.