Friday, July 8, 2011

Words, Words, Words about Criticism

“When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.” --Anonymous

“Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize.” --Elizabeth Harrison

The controversy surrounding mommy-blogger Heather Armstrong's recent charity trip to Bangladesh didn't surprise me. Heather went to Bangladesh to learn firsthand why maternal mortality rates for women in poor countries are so high and to promote awareness of the problem to those people who might be able to help. She was invited by the charity Every Mother Counts, founded by former model Christy Turlington, and Heather paid her own way.

I've heard all sorts of criticism aimed at both celebrities like Heather and average Janes and Joes who are working to do something good in the world. People snort derisively at Christians who give up their vacations to go on mission trips, celebrities who stand up for a charity du jour, and politicians who stump for a cause. There's always an ulterior motive, the critics say. Christians are just trying to buy their way into heaven with good works, celebrities travel to poor countries to poke sticks at the poor people just for the publicity, and politicians...well, we all know what they really want.

Healthy criticism and careful review of finances at charities are essential to keep charity scams to a minimum, but why in the world are people driven to condemn other people who are actually making a difference--or at least trying--on the front lines of some of the world's most horrifying problems?

I don't get it.

Certainly some people exploit the suffering of others for their own benefit, but it's hard to see how in the world Heather's activity benefits her personally in any nefarious way. And while it's nice to do good unheralded and unpraised, if everyone did their charitable activity in secret, lots less of it would get done. Promoting a need is necessary, and celebrities--whether bloggers or actors or billionaires--are ideally suited to raise awareness and the money that can make a difference.

We need to be very careful not to become the people who sit complaisantly complaining that other's motives are bad while we do nothing at all to make the world a better place, in whatever way we are called to do so. The problem of maternal mortality rates is huge and complex and won't be fixed quickly or easily or because Heather went to Bangladesh and had a bunch of bad hair days. She knows she can't solve the problem but she can make people more aware of it. She's doing what she can out of a sincere concern for women who die needlessly doing what nature intended us to do.

And I applaud her for it.

How can you lift up and encourage others who are trying to lift up the world in their own small way?


  1. It's so easy to criticise isn't it. Thank goodness for all those brave souls who rise above the doubters and nay sayers. Where would we be in this world without those who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and DO something for others; they should be applauded, not derided. Lx

  2. I think the criticism also comes from a sense of guilt, that people won't get off their bottoms and contribute even in some small way, and therefore much easier to say it's a stunt.

  3. I very much agree with Cassandra, criticism often stems from other people's insecurities and guilt. I admire anybody who gives up their own time to do good. Myself I feel a little guilt sometimes for not doing more for other people, but I wouldn't dream of questioning the motives of other people!


  4. I join you in applause, Susan!

    I've seen it here in South Africa many times where celebrities get involved and only get criticism.

    Yes, there are the peole who do it for own gain or whatever motive, but if one can get support for a cause using a celebrity, why not??

    We can all do our own little bit - we don't have to say what we do, but at least tell other people about the plight of the orginisation we're involved in. That way we can get those critising bums of the chairs (pun intended :0)

    I'm a friend of a society for people with physical disabilities. I support them how and when I can. That way I can stay involved and enjoy my involvement.

  5. *Constructive* criticism is much appreciated by many (myself included). What these people are doing is just sour grapes. Part guilt, part unhappiness looking for a target and part jealousy. The worry that they will never be considered "good" enough in comparison to someone else. Ugh.
    I really, really hope I don't fall into that trap.

  6. In the middle of reading "Half the Sky - How to change the World" which is about the struggle for equality for women and their daughters around the world . . . how women are tackling poverty, disease, confict. How those that want to help don't always get it right . . . but they try, and learn, and try again.

    Those who are criticised are normally the people who are DOING SOMETHING. What are the critics doing?


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!