A Critique is Still Criticism – Tread Softly

No matter how much the experts split hairs and insist that critiquing something isn’t the same as criticizing it, it doesn’t change the fact that when you write or issue a critique of anything, you’re still criticizing it! Tread softly. Vicious critiques have led to suicide of the victims.

Rarely is a critique a balanced analysis nowadays. It will generally lean much more heavily toward fault-finding.

The original meaning of critique was criticism of an artistic or literary work, as in a careful judgment of it. Once the self-appointed intelligentsia as a group started using the word, all neutrality was over. From there, critique floated down and became part of the vernacular.

Although it’s still not part of the wider umbrella of street talk, just about everyone throws the word critique around with abandon. We critique the tacos from the street vendor, we critique a Sunday School lesson, we critique the TV anchor and the baseball umpire, we critique our child’s teachers (and rightly so – to weed out the rotten or inept and reward the dedicated or great educators). We even critique our drunken neighbors’ yappy little dog and beautiful but infuriating cat.

Whether we wrap a critique in a Subway® sandwich or a Klondike® bar, the middle is still criticism and it always stings. Just ask your kids.

In high school I was shredded by other students and by the so-called careers counselor. Never were my goals taken seriously. It didn’t matter that I listed three different areas of interest: veterinary medicine, journalism, and translation. The response was always the same: “Your sort doesn’t go to college.” And worse. No matter that at the time my best subjects were Latin, French and English, in that order.

Even my non-academic husband was repeatedly told by his own mother he’d never amount to a hill of beans, as they say in the Midwest. As it turned out, my husband owned that hill of beans long before he died. But it wasn’t until he realized he finally had a wife who was going to stay instead of cheat on him, that he gained any self-confidence in himself. And stay I did – for 44 years until he passed away.

Of course, it’s a parent’s job to correct and guide a child’s behavior. But destroying a child’s self-esteem is never acceptable. That said, kids don’t arrive with a Quick Start Guide, let alone a User Manual for their parents. The opinions of child psychologists can change with each generation but one of the best resources for raising children is still the Holy Bible. Love them and don’t take “Spare the rod and spoil the child” to the extreme of child abuse.

Maybe if four or five unrelated other people tell you the same thing about yourself over several months or even years, you might take another look at barbed comments to see if they hooked a morsel of truth. But for now, set it aside. Never let someone else’s opinion divert you from a worthwhile goal.

And for those prone to passing judgment, remember that a so-called critique is still criticism. Let’s choose our words carefully, if we’re going to say anything. Courtesy, tact, and diplomacy can be in short supply in an increasingly vulgar and arrogant world but they go a long way toward making our take on things more reasonable and acceptable.

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