Criticizing with Charity

The growth of social media platforms, especially Twitter, has allowed single individuals much greater ability to broadcast views to a wide audience. It was also bound to increase venomous and disagreeable discourse. Such is human nature. But before we condemn these platforms as a step backward, it might be better to figure out how to use them properly.

There can only be two purposes to broadcasting views; one to advance ideas and thoughts, and another to criticize bad or dangerous ideas advanced by others. On the latter we need to remember to criticize with charity. I am using charity in the limited definition of applying kindness, moderation and genuine concern when disapproving or criticizing an idea or an utterance. The rules for doing so are remarkably simple:

  • Criticize the idea, or the manner of its expression, not the person who advanced it. All of us are capable of putting out bad ideas but that does not make us idiots. In fact, there is no point in criticizing anyone who is incapable of producing good ideas. Criticism, applied with charity, is a form of respect, even intimacy.
  • Never impeach the person, especially those not personally known to us. It is difficult enough to judge the character of those closest to us and with whom we deal on a daily basis. To extend judgement to those we do not know is nearly impossible.
  • An idea is worth criticizing only if the criticism has a chance to enlighten anyone, or extend the discussion to better ideas or a higher realm. This is a difficult criteria to apply, so we should err on the side of caution.
  • Always admit mistakes, quickly and cheerfully.

— Maged atiya



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