Good advice is easy to give but hard to take. As soon as we’re offered those words of wisdom, the defence systems kick in and the mind reels off a thousand justifications. A man is seldom corrected without significant resistance. A shame, since the critical feedback of others is an invaluable component of spiritual growth. Developing an unapproachable character and persona, making it difficult for others to offer correction, is one of the top causes of spiritual inertia and internal dry-up. By repeatedly ignoring good feedback and advice, we send a clear message to our constructive critics – just leave me to it. And more often than not, they will.
So why is it so hard to humbly receive the sincere feedback of others?
We can’t see – it’s difficult to see the picture when you’re inside the frame. Entangled in our own emotions, perceptions, habits, and opinions, we struggle to go beyond. A neutral observer can clearly see things that we are completely oblivious to. Our modes of functioning, however, become so engrained that we convince ourselves we must be right, and conveniently disregard any opinions to the contrary.
We don’t want to see – success, we feel, is to be ‘perfect,’ and when that perfection is questioned, our pride awakens to defend. More important than perfection, however, is progress. A spiritually successful day is one where we improve, refine and develop ourselves, and how is that possible if we’re unaware of our shortcomings? Stagnate in the illusion of perfection or progress in the reality of struggle – the choice is ours.
Constructive critics actively craft our spirituality. Why not take their words seriously and embrace the opportunity to improve? Even when their feedback is out-and-out wrong, we’d do well to avoid disregarding it completely. Can we still learn a principle from what is being said? Even if the details are wrong, could the feedback apply to us in a different way? Can we see it as a warning of what not to do? Can we use their seemingly inaccurate analysis as an opportunity to exercise humility? All high ideals, I know, but that’s what makes a sincere spiritualist so special. The great saints demonstrated how even the harsh criticism of a faultfinder can enrich our spiritual growth, what to speak of the earnest words of concerned friends.