The Internet — and society in general — is filled with all manner of malicious, spiteful, ornery, ignorant, confused and utterly stupid people. This is just a simple fact. I should know. After all, I do spend a lot of time here, wading through murky cesspools of mindless cyber trolls and obtuse agitators just so that I can write and post engaging content that will, hopefully, shine some truth and light into a dark culture teetering on the verge of moral and intellectual collapse. I hope that I’m beginning to cut through all of the noise and at least have a little success with this endeavor. I mean, that’s the whole point of what I’m doing here.
But, I also spent 14 years in the clothing customer service industry, so I have some firsthand “real world” experience in regards to how many folks act when they’re not behind the glow of their computer screens or iPhones. And the sad fact is that several of them are the same naive, demanding, uninformed, self-entitled, pretentious jerks that they are on Facebook and Twitter. This isn’t the case for everyone of course. There are a lot of godly and decent human beings out there, and thank the Lord for them. Hopefully you’re striving to be one. Otherwise our culture would be in even more trouble.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that criticism, tension and hostility abound. I was barely 16-years-old when I received my first dose of real-world, non-parental criticism. It came from a boss who told me that I was folding a pair of khaki pants improperly, despite that she had “shown [me] a thousand times how to fold those damn pants!” She didn’t yell loud enough to cause a ruckus among customers, but she got her point across. This was quickly followed by snatching the pants out of my hands, folding them herself and then ordering me to size the entire men’s denim wall. Her criticism wasn’t very constructive or well-articulated, but it was enough to motivate me to be as detailed and meticulous as possible for the next nightly department inspection, especially since I was depending on this job to save up for my first car. I wanted to do the best that I could. I NEEDED to do the best that I could. My manager’s criticism — as rude and boorish as it was — fueled my desire to do better.
I realize that not every young person is wired this way. In fact, most of the so-called “adults” in my generation, and the generation behind me, will quit anything at the drop of a hat, particularly if they don’t like how they’re being treated or spoken to. I watched it happen a dozen times with my coworkers. I’ll never forget the fateful night that one employee — codename Brad — ripped his name tag off his shirt, tossed it on the ground and stormed out of the store, spewing profanity all the way into the parking lot. He actually quit in the middle of a shift and hadn’t even been working there more than two weeks. Why? Because a manager dared to correct the way he was processing credit card transactions. Even worse, Brad KNEW he was doing it the wrong way, but simply didn’t care. It was easier and faster to skip over that little step which requires the customer’s electronic signature and just go ahead and print the receipt. You see, he wasn’t just mad that he was criticized and corrected. He was also mad that he was caught.
It kind of went something like this:
MANAGER: Brad, I noticed when you were on the register earlier, you didn’t prompt the signature for the customer’s card. Corporate monitors those numbers so try to remember to do that for me next time, please. Thanks so much.
BRAD: Who cares about corporate? I think it’s better and faster to do it my way!
MANAGER: Clock out, go home and don’t bother coming back.
BRAD: *sobbing uncontrollably* Why are you being so mean to me? I’m going to tell my mommy! *runs out of store*
I quite honestly have no idea how employers put up with it these days. May God have mercy on their souls. There are millions of Brads out there in the world and these managers actually have to depend on them to do things. It’s enough to drive one to psychopathic insanity. Or, at the very least, drive one to drink.
So, to all of the Brads and Bradinas out there in America, I offer this simple bit of truth: People are going to criticize you and some will even hate you. You can either have an emotional breakdown over this fact, melt into a puddle of tears and never become a functioning member of society, or you can choose to accept it, embrace it, learn from it, and move on. My prayer is that you will choose the latter because it will mean that you have the potential to mature and grow as an individual. And that’s important.
Also, the progress which you desire to attain in life will hinge upon your ability to process criticism and feedback. Moreover, it will depend on your ability to differentiate between the two most common types of criticism: destructive and constructive. Destructive criticism is typically performed “with the intention to harm someone, derogate, and destroy someone’s creation, prestige, reputation and self-esteem.” On the other hand, constructive criticism contains “helpful and specific suggestions for positive change” and focuses on “a particular set of issues, as opposed to providing general feedback…”
Take my word for it: You will receive both types throughout the course of your life, if indeed you haven’t already. I get destructive criticism on a regular basis. It shows up every day on my social media pages, my comment threads and in my e-mail inbox. People disagree with the “crap” that I write and feel compelled to let me know how “terrible” it is or how “awful of a human being” I am for having a particular opinion. I glean what I can from their critiques — if there is anything to be gleaned at all — and then I ignore the rest. In fact, I often don’t even respond, particularly if it’s apparent that the destructive criticizer is merely seeking attention for himself. That’s a separate issue altogether and it’s his issue, not mine. (For the record, we typically refer to these poor souls as “trolls.”)
But it’s OK because I also receive plenty of constructive criticism from readers, friends, and family. These people motivate me to excel at my crafts and hobbies and to be a better writer, better communicator, better researcher, better guitarist, better church media coordinator, even a better man and a better Christian. They don’t just say, “Josh, you’re awesome,” and leave it at that. Instead, they say, “Josh, you’re alright, but here are some things you could do to improve.” It’s up to me to listen to and process their critiques. That’s the kind of criticism and feedback everyone really needs.
Now it’s your turn. There will always be people who criticize you and even people who hate you. Accept that as reality. How you choose to respond — and grow along the way — is up to you. Godspeed.
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