Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Critical Comments and Human Limitations

I think it is probably a pretty good rule of thumb to follow that if I feel inclined to criticize someone (especially a semi-anonymous "someone") for how something is done, I should step up and try to do that something myself.

And then bear it when someone criticizes how it is done.

I find this to be especially helpful where music is concerned. This Friday I will be singing in a community choir's rendition of Handel's Messiah. This concert happens yearly, and I've attended the last several years, but this will be my first year in the choir. I wrote about last year's visit, and you'll note that I made mention that the performance was good, but not stunning. I don't know about you, but I feel like when I make some kind of value judgment statement like that, what I am really insinuating is that if I were involved, it would be better. Or at least if everyone would try as hard as I surely would, it could be better.

So this year, when the performance is good but not stunning, I will hold that evaluation quietly to myself and instead speak with awe about how difficult it is to sing these pieces well! And yes, I am trying hard to practice those painful alto runs (those several dozen notes on which one sings the word "born" in "For Unto Us a Child is Born," for example).

I think this is where forbearance comes from. I can look with sympathy on the weaknesses of others if I am well aware, and at peace with, my own weaknesses. If I think I'm just "super person," or if I know I'm not and I hate that fact, I am going to be mercilessly critical of the weaknesses of others. And then at the very least I will be of no help to anyone, and at worst I will be intolerable to be with.

But if I know my limitations and can still look with love at myself (knowing I am loved by Another), then maybe the Infinite finds a way to and through this frail pot of clay.

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