My daughter usually doesn't mind coming to Quran reading-time, but her mood quickly deteriorates as I start correcting her Arabic pronunciation.
Me: It's "lay" not "lee."
Daughter: "Lee." (Starts fidgeting.)
Me: "Inna," stress the nnn.
Daughter: "Innna!" (Toes now curling.)
Me: Are you sure that's "ka"?
Daughter: "Fa!!!" (Head scratching and voice quivering, approaching the point of no return.)
While I'm usually able to navigate it so we finish the lesson without a complete meltdown, my daughter's sensitivity to being corrected makes these ten minutes of the day quite a stress bucket.
Like my little spitfire, most people find it difficult to take corrections or criticism. But those striving to perfect themselves to soar to proximity to God must not only learn to accept it but should also welcome it with open arms.
"Among my brothers my favorite is one who informs me of my failings and defects," said Jafar al-Sadiq, great grandson of Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times.
In our quest for self-improvement and purification, we need to reform ourselves, and because we don't always see our own faults, critical words coming from the bird's eye view of others can alert us to weaknesses we can begin eliminating.
God: "I swear by the...soul and Him who made it perfect, then inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it. He will indeed be successful who purifies it and he will indeed fail whoever pollutes it and corrupts it." (Quran 91: 1-10)
The consequences are indeed dire for those of us unable to take criticism constructively. God gives the example of Pharaoh, the husband of Asiya (another perfect women of all times) as someone who corrupts himself because of this inability. God asks Prophet Moses, their adopted son, to go to Pharaoh and tell him to correct his ways. The following is Pharaoh's response to Moses:
"But (Pharaoh) rejected it and disobeyed (guidance). Further, he turned his back, striving hard (against God). Then he made a proclamation, saying: 'I am your Lord, Most High.' But God did punish him, (and made an example of him) in the Hereafter as in this life." (79: 21-25)
Not only do we have to suppress our inner Pharaoh when we're criticized in day-to-day dealings, but we must also make sure that that Pharaoh, or dictatorship of the inner self, doesn't gain power when we face criticism in leadership positions--whether in the family, places of worship or political scene.
Imam Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, insisted that public figures be open to criticism because it is an important channel of communication through which they can evaluate the effectiveness of their policies.
"There should be criticism; without criticism a society cannot be reformed," Imam Khomeini said. "This is also true with faults. Man is defective from head to foot and these defects must be stated."
In the end, the best source of criticism is often the last place we want to hear it from--our spouses!
"Who is it that sees the bad side of us, afterall?" asks scholar Salim Yusufali. "We know when we get back home that's when our true colors are revealed."
Hope my husband doesn't read this and think he's getting the green light...guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.