Recently, I had to make a PowerPoint presentation to some colleagues about a proposal a few of us are working on. At the end, several people came up and thanked me. One went as far as to say that what I’d done was outstanding. I nodded and said, “Thank you,” while thinking to myself, “It wasn’t nearly that good. They’re just being kind.”
I then started to think about the times when people have criticized me and how I’ve taken every word they’ve said to heart and have worried over it, sometimes for months – if not years – on end. I still remember a parishioner from my Syracuse, NY days who came out of church one Sunday and said, “Nice homily… for a change.” I hold on to that little nugget and beat myself up with it on a regular basis if I don’t think a homily has gone well. The many compliments I’ve received about my preaching, however, have long since been consigned to the ether of amnesia.
Is it just me or are there lots of people like me who gloss over praise and instead fixate on criticism? Why do we do this?