Manipal Monk: Criticisms shouldn’t strain strong relationships

People who believe that their loved ones can do no wrong, or ought not to be told that they are wrong are stupid people. They may succeed in avoiding conflict with the other person and any consequences that may result, but a more powerful conflict may arise within because those persons are not being true to themselves.

The thing is, that internal conflict may stay alive for longer and have more adverse effects than the external conflict might have. In addition, when some people know that someone close to them always avoids any form of disagreement, they lose respect for that person, if they ever respected them to start with.

This is why it is so important sometimes to be true to yourself and speak your mind, even if your closest friend or family do not like it. It is true that sometimes it is good to stay quiet on things that are simply none of your business, but sometimes you’ve just got to say what you believe has to be said regardless of who likes it.

Most of us probably know some people who believe that their children can do no wrong. It does not matter what complaints they get from teachers, neighbours or anyone else, their children are little angels, whose actions always have some justification. As a result, these parents do not instill the kind of discipline that they should. Sometimes these parents carry this attitude and practice right through to the child’s teenage years, and even up to adulthood they can offer no rebuke. Often they live to regret it because a child who grows up believing that he can do no wrong usually ends up being an embarrassment to his parents and brings shame upon himself. I have lost count of the number of times that I have had teachers tell me that some person they saw, read or heard about in the news facing the courts for some serious criminal offence was stoutly defended as a schoolboy/schoolgirl by his/her parents for misconduct in school. This is not to say that the parents are entirely responsible, but such an attitude can have serious repercussions.

 I could be wrong, but I find that friends are usually less forgiving than family when it comes to receiving open criticism. Some so-called friends have a nasty habit of wanting to get back at their friends for not telling them what they want to hear. These so-called friends seem to believe that honesty is not a necessary ingredient for a strong, meaningful friendship. Rather, they seem to think that fear is a more useful element in creating and maintaining close ties between two parties. Even more annoying is when these “friends” have no problems openly criticising friends and enemies alike as frankly as they feel like, but no one else can do it to them. If you are their friend and you don’t agree with what they are doing, they tell you to zip it.

So how do you deal with a “friend” like that, especially when you do not want to, or can’t cut off that person for whatever reason?

This is where things get ticklish and there are no easy answers to this one. You can keep criticisms to yourself, or at least tell them discreetly and diplomatically, while your friend continues to voice his criticisms of you in no uncertain terms for everyone to hear. You can be afraid of your friend, let him know that, and let him hold it over you, while losing all respect from the friend, others and even yourself.

Alternatively, you can continue to be frank and honest with your friend, making it clear that while you are in disagreement, there is no malice in your criticisms, and live with any consequences. Your friend may try to punish you, especially if you are dependent on him for some reason, but has to respect that fact that you are not afraid to express your individuality. This bully and everyone else are forced to understand that you cannot be controlled so easily.

In the end, I think it does you more harm than good most times keeping quiet and breeding inward conflict and losing self-respect and the respect of others than speaking your mind and facing whatever conflicts might arise. The immediate effects of not expressing disagreement with someone close may be favourable, but usually the long-term effects are disastrous. However, if both parties are reasonable, open differences of opinion and rebuke strengthen and not strain close relationships.

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