Everyone is familiar with a person getting “defensive” when something is brought up to them that they don’t want to deal with. It’s usually something that threatens the selfish-side self, relating to a desire or fear. Bringing up any issue that creates pressure to release either a “block” (fear side), or an “addiction” (desire side), usually results in defensiveness. The most common “trigger” for defensiveness, is criticism.
Defensiveness is a deeply ingrained automatic reaction within everyone, yes, even you. Why? If you want to understand it better, start by asking yourself what is actually being defended? What’s really being defended is sometimes called “ego”. But essentially, it’s the selfish-side self. And it’s protecting (defending) its “turf” and control. It isn’t so obvious though, because usually, side-issues are being defended. But nonetheless, those side issues tie directly into the entire selfish-side self. The issues represent the selfishside.
If you understand that, and if you are wanting to grow and apply the Golden Rule in your life, then what is there to defend really? If selfishness and ego are your enemy, do you want to defend the very thing you are working against? Obviously not. But again, this is a DEEPLY INGRAINED AUTOMATIC REACTION, and it takes constant vigilance and very hard work to counteract that. When you have mastered control over this reaction, you will be able to take advantage of tremendous opportunities for growth.
How can we change this reaction? There are several ways. First, the opposite of being defensive, is being humble, honest and receptive to input involving your ego or selfish-side self. When you are sincerely desirous of learning about your flaws and changing, you will want the criticism of others to help you change. And it shouldn’t matter to you whether that criticism is given in the spirit of being helpful, or spiteful. If you have the right attitude, all criticism can be “constructive criticism”. It there’s truth in someone’s criticism, you can use it, if there isn’t, you can toss it.
If you want to grow, if you really want to apply the Golden Rule in your life, you will be receptive to all criticism. In fact, you will be more than receptive, you will be “thirsty” for it. That thirst is a must. That humility is a boon. A person with a lot of humility learns and grows many times faster than a person with little humility. And if you completely lack humility, you aren’t going anywhere, or should I say, you are “growing nowhere”.
Even if you are thirsty for critical input, it can still be challenging when it actually occurs. As you read this, you may be thinking, “Yes, that sounds great, I do want to change and I’m open to input and criticism.” That’s a good start. But then you need to get down to work, and remember your desire to change when you begin to hear things that you don’t like hearing about yourself, things that are “less than flattering” to say the least. I.e., things that “bug your ego”. If that happens, you aren’t likely to feel “peaceful and happy”. It will happen. Plan on it, and be ready for it. With love and humility (that burning desire to face your flaws and change), you can deal with it.
The important part is how you handle it when it does occur. When you’re hearing something that you don’t want to deal with, or your self instantly throws up, “Nuh Uh, that’s not true!”, or some other defensive response, here’s what you can do. Stop yourself, take a breath and call to mind your ideal/goal. This is really important, to your ideal that will help motivate you to rise up above that automatic defensive response. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?”, “What am I doing here?” Hopefully, your answer is, “I want to see all of my flaws and the truth so I can grow as a person.” Then, examine the criticism/input you are receiving in an objective, detached way. And with a priority desire for the truth, examine what they are telling you. Be truthful. Be honest. It’s OK – you can face it and change it. Acknowledging a flaw/mistake doesn’t doom you or damn you. It’s the first step in transcending it.
Sometimes it helps to imagine that they are bringing it up to some other person and you are just an observer. Looking at it as just an uninvolved third party observer, is there truth to what is being said? If you know there is truth to it, acknowledge it. Then think about what the opposite trait would be.
If someone is saying you are driving recklessly (and it’s true, or maybe only true that you are not driving as carefully as you should), then the opposite trait would be driving carefully. So to change that and strengthen the positive, do the following:
1 – Change the way you are driving immediately.
2 – Thank the person who brought it up to you. They’ve done you a favor.
3 – Apologize if appropriate.
4 – Say an “affirmation” (see other chapter) like, “I always drive carefully”.
Also, take a moment as you visualize yourself having the positive trait involved, and feel grateful for the opportunity for growth.
Unfortunately, it’s a rare thing for someone to really be grateful when someone criticizes them or points a flaw out. But it really is a blessing in disguise, so – feel blessed!
To be forewarned is to be forearmed, so being aware of some standard defensive “scripts” that the selfish-side uses, can be very helpful. Here are some of the top rated “oldies” that I’ve heard down through the years:
1 – “You’re just being “negative”, and that’s the real reason why you’re saying this about me.”
2 – “Well, you do that too, so you don’t have the right to say anything to me about it.”
3 – “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
4 – “Why do you always have to nit-pick?”
If you hear any of these running through your mind, or any variations on them, take a step back and really look for the truth. Also notice how you are feeling. Are you feeling uptight? Or angry? Are you unhappy? If you are feeling disharmonious emotions, you have a problem regardless of the validity of what is being brought up to you. The person who is speaking to you may actually be feeling negative, or making a big deal out of something, or doing the very thing they are confronting you with, but still, the PRIMARY AND PRIORITY issue at hand is- is there something you can learn from what they are saying to you about yourself? Focusing on the problems of the other person is a standard selfish-side maneuver to avoid addressing what’s being said about you. It’s about you first of all. You are the person you are responsible for changing – no one else. YOU CAN ONLY CHANGE YOU. Never let yourself avoid dealing with something by turning the tables on your critic (that can be dealt with later). Save yourself and your friend the hassle of going through all that and just be humble enough to look for and recognize the truth, whatever it may be. It just isn’t a valid argument to say, “You’re not perfect yourself, so I don’t want to hear any criticism from you.”.
If a drunk warns you about the dangers of drinking too much, is his advice bad because he’s sick and addicted to alcohol himself, or is his advice still good advice?” So start by dealing with your self. Then, after having dealt with your issue positively, if there is a problem with the other person, you can help them with that. But only after you have honestly dealt with your own issue. Note how I said “help” them with it. Too often, it is seen as busting someone, getting on their case, getting back at them, etc. But if you love them, and want to help them grow, and you have an agreement to point things out, then you are helping them on their road to oneness. That is the spirit that you should always say things with.
“He has the right to criticize, who has the heart to help.”- Abe Lincoln
From: Golden rule Handbook