Acritic teacher wrote these eight words on the board, and most of the students either chuckled or murmured to each other. She asked, “Why are you laughing?”

“You misspelled, ‘perhaps,'” said one student in a peal of laughter.
The teacher kindly said, “And that’s the way of the world. It will ignore all your successes and concentrate on your one mistake.”

  • When Adam and Chavah[1] erred in Gan Eden[2], Hashem first asked where they were. Then asked, “Who told you you were naked,” before further asking, “Have you eaten of the tree I commanded that you should not eat?[3]” In this dialogue, Hashem never mentions the tree by name and gives the two an opportunity to fess up and to own their mistake.
  • When we think of Abraham, do we remember the ten tests he passed or do we remember the time he said his wife was his sister?
  • Do we remember Isaac trying to give a blessing to Esau or do we recall his wholehearted devotion to his father and to G-d?
  • Rebecca’s deceit is hailed as her most memorable deed, not that she is a fitting replacement for both Abraham and Sarah.

Why is it we remember the bad deeds good people do and why do we highlight, accent, and harp on the one wrong thing? There are two reasons and the second is the most nefarious.

  1. When people who are normally correct make a mistake, it’s unusual and it sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s no wonder we mention these mistakes far more than the blatant rebellious acts of teenagers who step all over themselves to cause as much misery and grief as possible. How we approach the errors of good people takes consideration and care, because when we criticize, we castigate ourselves in the process. We much help each other in a constructive (not destructive) way.
  2. The best way people can show their weakness is to criticize. Nothing shows weakness faster than criticism. [Sadly, most critical people think their behavior is justified or even righteous.] By bringing down others, they seem to believe they are elevating themselves, but this is not true. While they may succeed in temporarily knocking someone down “a notch or two,” all they have done is artificially diminish the distance between themselves and their target, but this has not increased their stature one bit. The criticism becomes an opportunity for the target to raise themselves even higher by thoughtfully considering their reaction.

We need to be a positive people who recognize the seven correct answers for what they are and call them to attention.

It’s much more valuable to look for the strength in others. You can gain nothing by criticizing their imperfections[4].

[1] Adam and Eve

[2] Garden of Eden

[3] Genesis 3:11

[4] Daisaku Ikeda


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