How can we intelligently neglect some people’s criticism of us?
Transcribed and edited by: Ambuj Gupta and Keshavgopal Das
Question: When we say that some people are always going to be critical of us and we just have to intelligently neglect them. What does it mean practically because the mind is going to dwell on their words?
- Criticisms can be handled in three possible ways (i) clarify (ii) counter (iii) neglect. For people who are reasonable the first two ways are recommended but for people who are simply interested in endless fighting the third way has to be adopted.
- It is going to be a distraction or a diverter to some extent but it doesn’t have to be bigger than what it is.
- Do something if something needs to be done (like clarify or counter) but if that is also not working than just ignore and move on.
Answer (long): Yes, when we neglect basically that means that we don’t show them that we are affected by what they are doing. Basically some people are spoiling for a fight. They have fighting nature. They criticize us and then we counter them and then they counter us further. Such people have very little to do in life apart from fighting like this. They get some joy in fighting. For such people the rightness or wrongness or the benefit or the lack of benefit on a particular issue is not as important than just the fact that they are fighting for what they consider is right. We have to understand that for people of that nature, if we give them stimulus then they are going to make things worse for us. What exactly it means to neglect, that will vary from situation to situation.
Some people we just avoid them completely. They come and talk with also. We just greet them politely, find an excuse and move away forward. If they broach a topic, we might just say politely I am not interested and change the subject. Like there is a saying that the dogs may bark but caravan rolls on. I wrote another article about criticism recently in which I quoted George Bernard Shaw where he says that- I learn long ago not to wrestle with a pig because you get dirty and the pig loves to wrestle.
We are not saying people critical of us are pigs but the principle is which we want to emphasize. There words may hurt us but just as we learn to get used to certain wounds, some bodily problem which incurable, some scar on some part of the body etc., similarly, we get used to such critical people. Although its paining but we get used to it and we move on with life.
If someone’s body has a scar which is not curable through surgery and they constantly think of that scar, then such thinking itself can become a problem for them. One should just move on with life. Like that we have to find out constructive things to do in our life and just move on. By not engaging with such type of people, we help ourselves by not getting entangled with them. It’s not always be practical but we have the example of Rupa Goswami and Sanatan Goswami giving jaya-patra (letter of victory) to a pundit who came in Vrindavan. They felt that they were more interested in writing bhakti literature and not interested in debating with somebody. They praised him, “yes, you are a great scholar”, and then just moved on.
It’s not easy and so simple, what exactly is to be done. My point is that based on time, place, and circumstance, we have to find out what to do so that we can move on with the things which are important in our life. In some people’s opinions they will be as big for us as we make them big. The more we dwell on, why does he think like that about me, why? why? why? That will hurt us terribly. But ok, this person thinks like that about me, but there are so many other people who appreciate what I am doing. Many other people who support me. Let focus on them and move on.
Some people’s words can be just treated like an unavoidable scar or wound on the body. All that we can do is that we don’t aggravate that particular wound. We act in a way that those people don’t get provoked further. Sometimes when we stay silent we may find that they may criticize further. Then we may to clarify with those people who are important for us if those people need a clarification. But if basically the people who are important for us, if they are satisfied what we are doing then we just move on.
Basically we have three attitudes- (i) we can counter what they are doing or saying (ii) we can clarify, and (iii) we can neglect. Which one we should do? If they are reasonable people we can discuss with them and try to clarify or counter them. If they are not reasonable people we just neglect. If somebody ask that this person said like this, what do you think. For example, if a parent says to his would be brahmachari son that you are being irresponsible, you are going away. This issue is not something which we need to clarify to community of devotees. They understand what a brahmachari is. But there are other relatives who are important for us and need a clarification or counter. If they are reasonable, one can explain to them – what we are doing and why we are doing, what we have done to take care of family, how our family is well situated etc. We have to go by the pulse in each situation and find out how to best ensure that particular criticism, person, or opinion does not become a bigger distraction from our main purpose in life than it needs to be. It is going to be a distraction or a diverter to some extent but it doesn’t have to be bigger than what it is and that’s what I meant by intelligent neglect. Do something if something needs to be done (like clarify or counter) but if that is not working than just ignore and move on.