There have been a few occasions on this blog when I have used the phrase clucking [one’s] tongue. If you are unfamiliar with that term it’s likely because you know it as clicking one’s tongue, or if you’re of West Indian descent as I am you know it as sucking one’s teeth (a slightly different sound reminiscent of a sarcastic cricket that involves pulling air through the teeth) or if your primary method of communication is with your thumbs you might know it as smh.
At the end of the day… or really any part of any given day… all of these are indicated as an expression of disapproval. A 49 year-old man wearing gray socks with a brown belt and blue shoes might elicit a tongue click, or a juicy bit of gossip about how Porter was hitting on the daughter of the mayor of Georgetown, Guyana, right in front of him might yield a sucking of the teeth, or finding out that Sally just got bk tgthr wth Herman might warrant an smh. Each of these scenarios deems worthy of our swift and critical condescension with extreme prejudice.
When we practice the art of criticism we are taking a page out of the book of Performing Magic 101; it’s all about misdirection. It’s all about averting another’s eyes away from our flaws and imperfections by drawing their attention to another’s. We are essentially Quasimodo saying “I can’t believe she left the house looking like that.”
Let me be clear here… I am not using this platform to preach on the evils of shit-talking. Make no mistake; I’m not condoning it either. I am by no means endorsing Judge Hisbehavior. I am just pointing out a marvelous opportunity we can take advantage of when it comes to our awareness. The more we think or look at or speak of others disapprovingly, the heavier base of foundation we are trying to smear on our faces to conceal the flaws we believe we have. We know we have them, we just don’t want others to know we have them, and if others can’t see them, maybe they will cease to exist. That did not work for Snuffleupagus. I’m just saying. Now everyone can see him and now he’s just another giant Muppet.
We can move into greater personal growth by observing how we regard another person, and if we find it to be in a critical light, let it serve as a bell, a notification to tell us there is an aspect of ourselves of which we disapprove that we are trying to ignore. We are silently sending an encrypted message to our subconscious that says “we might be broken but that person is so much more broken than we are so we can’t really be that bad”. Meanwhile the subconscious isn’t buying that; it instead slaps a “Damaged Goods” sticker on our personal issue and shelves it, only for us to unbox it later during a time when we really need courage or self-confidence.
It is a guarantee that the degree of criticism we express toward others represents a fraction of the criticism we hold toward ourselves. Let us find compassion for others who travel a different path and have a different set of life experiences; they may seem unfitting to our way of life, but they serve as a means for them to learn and grow. That compassion will in turn will help us to find the compassion we need to show ourselves to help us in our own healing and personal growth.