In the Honors Math and Science program in college I managed to pick up a smattering of knowledge of how God’s physical laws work, but I am here to tell you, in spite of anything you may learn about the laws of gravity, velocity and mass: an ounce of criticism has more impact than a pound of encouragement.
I participated in a Christian conference this weekend where, as part of an illustration, the keynote speaker asserted his belief that we are creatures who take to heart anything negative, while discounting the positive feedback we get.
I had to admit, at least in my own experience, he is absolutely right. My friends and I can easily have our days switched from sunshine to gloom by an unflattering remark.
I can express how we tend to feel the downward pull of criticism more powerfully than we are buoyed up by encouragement in scientific terms by an equation: criticism is equal to or greater than encouragement squared.
We can also compare the critical comment with an aroma: The essence of eau de skunk lingers long after the fragrance of the $3000 per ounce Ralph Lauren Perfume, Notorious.
Perhaps a visual image is better: one drop of ink from a leaky pen can resist many of the strongest stain removers.
What foolish creatures we are to allow the smallest unflattering comment, no matter where it comes from, to outweigh the encouragement of even our loved ones.
My first reaction to the speaker’s words was to resolve to be more positive in the future and not to give in to this tendency to brood over unflattering remarks. As I rolled the concept around in my mind, though, I became aware of another perspective.
If critical remarks are so powerful and heavy, I have a responsibility to be careful where I use them. I must not toss them casually, or even humorously, in any direction that may cause damage.
Since we seldom really see what burdens another person is struggling under, I can’t always know who might be brought to her knees by the weight of my small criticism added thoughtlessly to her load.
Rather than bear the responsibility for causing such pain, I hope I will remember from now on to think twice before adding my teasing or even helpful criticism to someone’s day.