Up here in Canada, we have a parliamentary system that invites communities to elect a representative from their “riding” and send them to Ottawa to help form the government of our land.  99% of the time a candidate would belong to a political party and thus identify with a particular group.  If enough of his party is elected (i.e. a majority), they form the government.  The group that finished second plays a valuable role–they form “her majesty’s loyal opposition”.    It is their job to “oppose” the government.  Now, when they are doing it well–they keep the government sharp by not running willy nilly over the rights, needs, and situations of the people.  When they are doing it poorly it can degenerate into pettiness, silliness, absurdities and childishness.  But on paper it’s supposed to be a good thing in Canadian life.

Thomas Mulcair

Interestingly, up until 1983 when Pope John Paul abolished it, the Roman Catholic Church had an office titled “Devil’s Advocate”.  It was that person’s job to “oppose” any of the individuals put forward for sainthood in the church.  The reasoning was that “if everybody wants it, we won’t really be doing our research in looking at everything objectively”.  The D.A. was responsible to do the hard work of presenting a different reality.

I’ve been thinking lately of “criticism” and how I handle it.  I confess–I don’t always handle it well.  There is a whole host of stuff going on here but I think it’s safe to say that most of us struggle with criticism.  Perhaps it’s not the criticism as much as it is the critic we struggle with?

Anyway, here is my effort at being whole and healthy.  Even if my critic were only 50% right, is there something there I need to pay attention to?  I need to depersonalize from stuff to allow something of value into the mix.

What if we moved away from a right/wrong matrix to a true/helpful matrix?  By that I mean, let’s quit facing things as “right” or “wrong” and seek to find truth, help, and function?   Maybe my critic wants the same thing, and her ideas are really helpful progress towards “more helpful”, “more functional”?

I am a person given to ideas.   I always have them.  Sometimes my ideas are brilliant, sometimes they are borderline lunatic fringe.  I have a friend who I call periodically when I have a brain wave.  I tell him my idea and ask him to tell me “what’s wrong” with the idea.  He’s brilliant.  He can see the flaws in a tapestry from 20 paces.  I listen to him.  Why?  Because he epitomizes the idea of “loyal opposition”.  I know it’s not personal with him…it’s just meant to be helpful.  We could use a few more like him in life.