Source: Unsplash by @rstone_design
‘There is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behaviour when he is wrong.’ – Marvin Williams
I once read that ‘No one kicks a dead dog.’ Bear with me; this means more than just the avoidance of animal cruelty.
Recall the last few times you have been criticised for something: it is likely that you made a mistake, did something embarrassing, or even acted out of order. In some of these cases, the criticism was probably just according to your actions. For some others, the criticism may have been unjust; this is likely a reflection of the people you surround yourself with. If people want to criticise you unjustly, there is little we can do to stop people trying to spread this negativity, and therefore we learn to recognise these criticisms for what they are: unjust.
Instances where you made an honest mistake is where the phrase ‘No one kicks a dead dog’ might just save us the criticism from others. Here’s how.
Think again of a recent, honest mistake that you made and received criticism for. Now consider what might have happened if, before anyone else got the chance, you were to openly recognise your mistake and emphatically admit fault.
People will criticise you and your actions to make sure that you recognise that you acted wrongly and in the hope that you learn from it. So, what if we show others that we recognise that our own actions were wrong and that we will learn from it so that they don’t need to tell us? In the same sense that no one feels the need to kick a dog after it has already died, no one feels the need to further criticise someone after they have already admitted their mistakes. If a person does feel the need to continuously kick the dog after it’s death; you should probably find some new friends.
Think of who is easier to criticise when playing a team sport: the teammate who makes selfish errors and proceeds to shout at others and absolve himself of blame, or the teammate who makes a mistake and immediately acknowledges his fault and apologises to his team? It is likely that the former is met with criticism and resentment, while the latter’s mistake becomes brushed over and not overtly criticised.
This is not to say we should put ourselves down, wallow in self-pity, and accept defeat once we have made a mistake. No, this is to say that we should be self-aware and humble enough to recognise our genuine faults, and avoid external criticism by not just acknowledging this, but pledging, and trying, to do better in future. Do this, and you will find that you receive less criticism, more support, and more self-confidence without the condemnation of those around you. Displaying this humility will also earn you respect; it is hard to condemn and disrespect a person who is constantly humble and optimistic in failure.
Our innate pride and ego-centric nature often make it difficult to admit fault when we are wrong, but why not try to set yourself apart from the average person, improve on your mistakes, and gain the respect of others with the simple act of admitting that we are wrong?
This should not be a revelation, but it also doesn’t come naturally. Dealing with your own failure and the resultant condemnation will be as difficult as you make it.
Old, obvious, and eternal.