"First, do no harm," is a Zen mantra. That includes "right speech", where we refrain from speaking unless it adds positively to a conversation or to the world.
What about criticism and correction? Does it have any place in "right speech"?
I was thinking about this yesterday as I started reading Dave Carnegie's How to Make Friends and Influence People. I picked up the book at the library last week while doing some research on passive-aggressive behavior. I've heard quite a bit about the book (mostly in the form of jokes about the title), and was curious.
So I started reading it last night, and the first precept is "Don't criticize, condemn or complain."
It sounded very Zen.
His reasons were logical; people don't react well to criticism, people don't change their behavior after being criticized (except to avoid criticism later), and people trust us less when we criticize often. Makes sense.
But is it practical? Can we go through life without criticizing or correcting, especially as parents? Is there another way to express our desires without that?
Passive-aggressives are very good at finding fault in others, while hiding from their own faults. Is finding fault in others universally problematic?
Do you know anyone who criticizes, yet is still well-liked and makes friends easily? A friend of mine once said, "It's not the people who like the things we do who are our friends, but the people who hate the same things we do."
Dale Carnegie uses Abraham Lincoln as his running example of a man who chose not to criticize. Can we all be like Abraham Lincoln? Or would Lincoln crash and burn in today's world of critical media and our society's lust for drama?