Rules of Creation: Appreciation vs Criticism

As a society, we're completely tuned not to see the good in things but to find the bad. We grow up trying to be all the time better. "Work on self-improvement," "work on mastery," "try to improve," "always seek to do better". What do all those goals have in common?

What they have in common is that you have to find something wrong before you can fix it. And it's in the finding of things wrong that we get disconnected from Source. What if we could come to accept that we are already perfect, just the way we are, and stop all the time needing to be better? Better than what? Better than perfect? How is that even possible?

Think about how this applies in your own life. How often do you look out at your environment and find things to appreciate and admire? How often do you look out at your external environment (which includes your body) and find things to criticize? If you're at all like me, it's far easier to find things to complain about and criticize than to find things to compliment and appreciate. This isn't just you, or me, it's society in general. It's the way we've been raised and the way we raise our children.

If we're honest with ourselves—and sometimes this takes brutal honesty—we'll realize that society has sold us the proverbial bill of goods, taken us down the proverbial primrose path, regarding criticism. Society has taught us to criticize first and compliment later, if ever. We've learned that finding fault is the only way we can grow, and we continue to teach our children using that same template, albeit often without even realizing that we are. That's because criticism is so ingrained in us.

There's no cheese down the tunnel of criticism no matter how much society has told us that there is. There just isn't. That's 3D thinking and that thinking will keep us locked in a 3D reality. We are moving beyond that. We are moving to a place where we and everyone around us can have the health, wealth, happiness, and peace that is our birthright. Not just mine and your birthright, but the birthright of everyone and everything on the planet, the birthright of everyone and everything that has ever existed.

Some of the simplest yet greatest advice on this topic comes from Abraham. I'm paraphrasing here, but they gave the advice that if you find yourself caught in a negative-feeling spiral, you can shift out of that negative vibration by finding something in that situation, person, or place to appreciate. Find one teeny tiny thing to appreciate, no matter how small, and you will find your mood shifting. As your mood shifts your environment will shift. You find one thing, even one tiny thing, then find another, and another, and another, until you've pulled yourself out of the downward spiral and start feeling good again.

A Story

I've used that advice numerous times, and it works. It can also get really funny. Here's an example: My husband and I were having dinner at a favorite Chinese restaurant of ours, one that we can count on to have consistently good food and good service at a reasonable price. We expect to have an enjoyable evening at this establishment, in fact we count on it.

We were in high spirits as we entered this restaurant on this occasion, but almost as soon as we walked through the door things started to tank. Whereas there's normally someone right there at the front desk to seat us, no one was paying any attention to us, or to the desk. The restaurant wasn't terribly busy, there were a number of empty tables and plenty of staff milling about, so we could see no reason we weren't being helped. We stood at the desk, still in a jolly mood, for a few minutes before someone finally came to take us to a table.

As we sat down, we noticed that the table hadn't been cleaned properly. We brought this to the attention of the seating person, who said she'd send someone right over. We waited patiently for someone to 'finish' cleaning the table, and after far too long of a time, come they did. A busboy. By this time I was getting a bit irritated.

Now I'm far from a neat freak, but I do expect a clean table to eat at, and a clean table includes its status as a dry table. The towel this busboy used was overly wet and when he was done (and gone) we noticed a nice trail of water everywhere he had wiped. Deciding I didn't want to take the time, effort, or aggravation of waiting until we could get more help, in a fit of righteous indignation I dried up the water myself, with napkins. My mild irritation, which had become frustration, was moving quickly into anger. I took a few deep breaths and tried to relax.

Next there was a disturbance from a table near us. This table held a family with children that were being about as ill-behaved as children in a public place can be, and we found that annoying. In fact I noticed that although the place was half-empty, the overall noise level was far higher than I recalled it ever being.

After the longest wait in recorded history for our food, when it finally arrived we could barely eat one of the dishes. The meat tasted like flavored cardboard, the thickening in the sauce hadn't dissolved properly and looked disgusting. The whole meal looked bad and much of it tasted even worse.

I could write all day about things that didn't go well during that dining experience, but suffice it to say the service was awful, the atmosphere terrible, and the food barely edible. We both found ourselves caught up in all the things that were going wrong, finding any number of ways to blame the establishment, the waitstaff, the other customers. Whereas we had come into this place happy and laughing, we were both now in foul moods and starting to take that out on each other.

We were criticising everything, and completely justified in that criticism. But if I have learned anything over time, I've learned that being justified has nothing to do with anything. My joy is important to me, more important than being right, and I was deeply frustrated that I was unable to break this mood of upset. Then I thought about Abraham's advice to "find one thing, even the tiniest thing, to appreciate".

I looked around. I could find nothing, I mean nothing! to appreciate in that moment. I was steaming with anger, and everywhere I looked all I could see was all the things that had gone wrong or were going wrong. Recalling again "even the tiniest thing" I decided I could appreciate that we had both a salt shaker and a pepper shaker.

I'm being totally serious here, that was the only thing, in that moment, that I could find to appreciate. I had flashes of images from times at restaurants where we hadn't had both a salt and pepper shaker, so here was something I could appreciate. I felt a little better immediately. Not a lot better, but a little better. A tiny bit better. I realized that finding something to appreciate—even as mundane as having both a salt and pepper shaker—made me proud of myself, and that felt good too.

Next I focused on our placemats, which are covered with the Chinese Zodiak. Reading these always gives us something to do while we are waiting for our meal, so there too, was something to appreciate. I continued in this vein, sharing my thoughts with my husband, and in almost no time at all we were laughing about the whole experience. Quite a switch from only moments before where we were both stuck in a foul mood that was getting fouler, where things were bad and getting worse.

Not only were we now laughing, but all of a sudden the waiter, who had been nearly absent this whole time, became very attentive. Because of my change in mood I was able to talk to him in a civilized fashion about our disappointment with the meal, and he offered to 'comp' our dinner and even brought free dessert. The noise level in the restaurant, which moments previously had been so loud we could barely carry on a conversation over it, we noticed had again returned to normal levels. Even the previously ill-behaved children had miraculously settled down.

In less than 5 minutes spent in appreciation we had changed our entire environment. Coincidence you say? No, it wasn't coincidence. If you want to continue to buy into society's view of your individual powerlessness, go ahead and look at it all as coincidence. It wasn't coincidence. Through changing our attitude from one of criticism to one of appreciation, even when that appreciation started with something as seemingly inconsequential as salt and pepper shakers, we changed our environment. Once our environment started to shift it became easier and easier to follow that shift with greater and greater appreciation. All it takes is the willingness to let go of being right, being justified, finding fault, and instead start finding things to appreciate, no matter how small.

Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. Notice when you're stuck in a critical flow. Stop trying to be right all the time, to find the justification in your moods and actions, and start finding things to appreciate, even teeny tiny things. When you do that, things change and you start to see, first hand, how really powerful you are. How do you want to use that power? In criticism or in appreciation? In upset or in joy? It's all your choice, all you have to do is remember that it is.


JoyGirl said...

Awesome, K. Such a good re-minder. One of the things I appreciate so much about you and your husband is your ability to shift from upset to laughter so easily. Your son does that well, too. I am still learning. The gap between my upset and joy is smaller than it's been, but at times it still feels like the gap is the size of the Grand Canyon.

What's true for me is that I am content to be fully in the upset until I am truly ready to shift (and lately, too often), or ~feel~ sorrow or regret. That's my way of being authentic. If I apologize, I mean it. I'm not placating so I'll be liked and loved. I'm pissed, but I will get over it, and if I caused the upset, I will own it... but not until I actually feel the emotion; then the apology comes naturally.

What I want (and am learning from your son), is to close the gap much faster. It's ego. As you said, justification means nothing in these matter. What is is important is joy.

I have come to realize that the way I deal with hurt and upset is because I was spanked as a child. I was physically dominated and pain was purposefully inflicted upon me because my parents didn't know how to control their anger and didn't know a better way to parent. It's my intention to be the change. It's imperative, not only to my son, but to my own relationship with my husband.

Kathelena said...

Thanks for the heart felt comments JG. If you could stand far enough outside yourself to see where you've been and compare it to where you are now, you'd never doubt yourself again, or worry that you aren't getting it fast enough. What may be hard for you to see is that we learn as much - or more - from you as you learn from us. But that's one of the beauties of life isn't it? We're all learning and we're all teaching.

That you should mention authenticity is amazing, since that's one of the most important things we learn from you. I grew up in an era that rewarded pretending you don't feel how you feel, and naturally enough, though sadly also, I passed that way of being along to my own children. So now I spend a lot of time re-learning how to feel what I feel without pretending that I don't, whether that's anger or sadness or hurt—even joy and happiness—and allowing others the same freedom. There was a time, not so long ago, when I couldn't even admit when I was having a good time. So thank YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for continuing to model authenticity for us all.