Sometimes I find I can be hard on myself and not even realize it until…..

I’m hard on another person or someone else is hard on me. This usually comes out in some form of criticism. Isn’t it interesting how “constructive” criticism rarely feels constructive—either to you as you receive the criticism or to the person receiving criticism from you? Criticism is often riddled with blame about how someone “should” have done something or what someone “should” have done instead.

Throughout my life, I have adopted roles of leadership at various times in my life and I have come to realize that in the eyes of others, you will never do everything right. Some you are serving will perceive you create too many rules; others will say you don’t provide enough guidance. And on and on it goes, because each individual you serve is looking through their own personal lens of reality. As a result, I have discovered that criticism has very little value. Instead, I have come to realize that in most cases, most of us are simply doing the best we can in the moment, and hind-sight really is 20/20 vision.

Watching the presidential debates last night was a reminder to me about how easy it is to criticize. When you are not the person in the hot seat, making those tough decisions, it is easy to assume you know what decision someone else should be making. What I saw in the presidential debates were two men, doing their best, making mistakes periodically, who truly believe they have the leadership this country needs. Regardless of whose view, I am more aligned with, there were two men on that stage who have committed their lives to making a difference for others. These men represent two distinct points of view about their leadership that in turn represent, in broad manners, the views of many American citizens.

I could applaud one and criticize the other, but that would be the easy path. Politics is one arena where criticism has frequently become an acceptable response, and I’m not seeing it as a response that is in any way elevating our consciousness as spiritual beings. As someone dedicated to spiritual awareness and growth, I have to ask myself, “How do we transcend our propensity to criticize?” From experience, I know the best place for me to begin answering that question is inside myself.

I am harder on me than any other person I know. And when I am in a pendulum swing reaction to that hardness, I refuse to see where I could be more present, kind or thoughtful. In these two extreme views of myself, spiritual awareness seems to be asleep because I am not being very truthful with myself. I am not doing such a bad job that I deserve the rantings of my inner critic. Neither am I so in touch spiritually that I never miss the mark. Depending upon the alignment of the planets, my mood, and my current perceptions about myself, I am both. The truth is, the harder I am on myself in regard to making positive changes of perception, the less I am willing to look at what I might truly like to change.

And so, if I am willing to look at myself with respect and reverence—honestly and truthfully—I will be able to embrace the saint within me with appreciation and address the sinner (in its original meaning—one who misses the mark) with compassion. If I can hold myself in such regard, then I will be able to hold others with the same respect and reverence.

Ah, now I can imagine holding political candidates in mindful regard. I can pray for both of them, see and love their greatness, and pray for the best outcome in the elections for our country and the world. I may vote for my own personal preference, and yet, hold a vision of political and personal interaction filled with reverence and respect.

What would the world be like if we were compassionately honest with ourselves, and compassionate in our interactions with other? What would the world be like if each of us committed to being a little less hard and critical, and a lot more kind?

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