How to Deal with Destructive Criticism?
Once you are active in the world, people will throw all kinds of things at you. What life throws at you is determined by so many forces, but what you make out of it is one hundred percent up to you. Human beings have risen above the most impossible situations. Think of someone like Nelson Mandela. What he had been put through would have broken most people. From that, he came out as a gentle power, a kind of power that arises from not being identified with anything.
How to deal with critics and negative forces? It takes Asatoma Sadgamaya – to constantly move towards truth, towards what works. There will always be some who will try to throw a spanner in the works. Over the last twenty-seven years, some vicious defamation campaigns have been run against us. Though certain forces were determined to undermine our efforts, we have made Isha into a major movement, on all levels. Negative forces have to be dealt with in an appropriate manner. There is no point being philosophical about it. But unfortunately, too much philosophy has percolated into people’s minds, not enough sense.
Even high-ranking law enforcement officers have told me, “Sadhguru, to all great beings, this has happened. You know what Rama and Krishna went through. You will anyway go beyond that.” I said, “I didn’t talk to the law enforcement to tell me about what Rama, Krishna, or Jesus went through. Do you want that to be the precedent?” Unfortunately, well-intentioned people are wrapped up in their philosophies. Ill-intentioned people are action-oriented. This is what we need to change in the country – well-intentioned people must become action-oriented. Ill-intentioned people, we must wrap them up in their own negativity.
If we want the nation to move forward, all of us must do what works. There is too much activism, too little activity in this country. As a hangover from the pre-independence era, we are still honoring people who stop the nation from functioning. Rasta roko, rail roko, hartal, bandh may have been an appropriate means during the freedom struggle against our occupiers. But what sense does it make to lock down our own nation today? Bringing a nation to a halt is one kind of talent. Making a nation happen is a different kind of talent. If at any time, someone organized disruption in this country, there should be no chance for them to become a leader. These are elements who invest in other people’s problems. This must go. There is work to be done in the country.
If we can get people who hold key positions to change their mindsets, many things will change in the country. This includes bureaucratic leaders, business leaders, social leaders, and leaders in other areas. We have already touched about half of these people. They are making a quiet change, wherever they are. India has changed a lot in the last twelve years. This evolution happens quietly. If individuals make a fundamental change in the way they perceive, understand, and experience life, society will change. Let’s say you are interacting with a minimum of ten people every day. Whenever you meet someone, you can either leave a positive impact on them or a negative one, or you can just let them pass by.
Every time you have someone in front of you, you must see how to positively impact them. If you can make them smile a little more, you made a positive impact. This is the least you can do. Whether you know the person or not, whether it is a stranger or someone from an enemy country, can you genuinely smile at them? I’m not talking about forcing a smile. If you keep smiling every day without joy in your heart, it will kill you. If there is joy in your heart, you will naturally have a smile on your face. If you think what you are doing is important, the first thing is to work upon yourself. Why don’t you take stock of your life every month? Have you been a little better human being this month than you were last month? Have you become a little more joyful?
Criticism will anyway come. If you listen to praise, if you enjoy accolades, inevitably you will suffer criticism. If you want to have deep insights into life, no one’s opinion about you should mean anything to you. About work and activity, you can listen to other people’s opinions. About who you are and what you are committed to, you should not attach value to anyone’s opinion. To get to this place takes a certain amount of inner work. Most people are a product of other people’s opinions. If people keep telling you how good and wonderful you are, you will be floating on cloud nine. If people tell you otherwise, you will crash – cloud-burst.
Living in society, you cannot shake off criticism just like that. Becoming insensitive is not the answer – it is only avoidance. If you want a true answer, you need to work upon yourself. An inner dimension has to evolve that does not depend upon what is happening around you. If who you are is clearly established within yourself, then it won’t matter what people say. Some people say you are great, some people say you are horrible; some people say what you are doing is fantastic, some people say it’s no good – it’s okay. I don’t have time to look in the rearview mirror – my eyes are always on the road. In the rearview mirror, someone may be gesticulating angrily, someone may be praising you – it doesn’t matter.
This is not the time to enjoy successes or suffer failures. This is the time to put everything we have into creating the best possible results. That’s all human life is about – to strive for what truly matters. What happens or doesn’t happen is subject to various factors. But if you do not strive for what you truly care for, it is a wasted life. Before the drama starts, it is already a tragedy. So many issues arise just because people are not doing what they care for. If you are striving to create what you really care for, neither praise nor criticism will matter. If you can deal with situations without being affected by them, if the situations don’t decide who you are but you decide how the situations should be – that’s what I call success. That’s what I think you should strive for in life.