Miniblog #107: A Critical Spirit as a Good Thing?
The old adage says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” There’s an important thread of wisdom in that. It’s far too easy to become a slacker who complains about everything and offends just about everyone yet offers nothing helpful or edifying to the larger conversation.11.Griping is easy. Helping is hard. People like that sap your soul. The saying, then, is useful in verbally body checking them into shutting up. Plus it speaks to some biblical wisdom about learning to control you tongue. The trouble arises in the anti-intellectualism it breeds. Over the years a lot of people from coaches and Sunday School teachers to pastors and professors have told me I’m too critical.22.They’ll often bust out the aforementioned colloquialism as their exclamation point. Personally, I tend to think it says far more about their own mental apathy (or atrophy) than it does anything about me. Meanwhile I’m sitting there looking at the situation, belief system, political philosophy, or what have you and can see obvious fatal flaws in them. They’re going to fail and/or hurt people in the process. But people don’t want to hear that. They want you to either avoid identifying the problem to begin with OR identify it while providing immediate solutions. What I keep wondering is how on earth one does that. For just about any area of life it’s going to take time to put forth even a semi-coherent, reasonable solution.33.Do we tell researchers who spend their lives studying cancer in order to find cure that, ya know, they’re just too gohl darn negative? Of course not. So why the crap do we do with matters of faith, culture, politics, psychology, economics, art…? My contention is far too often critical thinking gets a bad wrap. It’s one thing to wallow in a critical spirit, never seeking to accomplish anything and instead being content to grumble about how much the world sucks. It’s quite another thing to exercise a critical spirit, acknowledging and thoroughly exploring problems in order to find a better way. I’ve come to rather enjoy the befuddled look on people’s faces when they tell me I have a critical spirit and I reply, “Why, thank you.”