Abe Lincoln and Fear of Criticism

The fear of criticism robs a person of their initiative, destroys imaginations, limits initiative, destroys dreams, steals self-reliance, and does, Lord only knows how much more damage.   Napoleon Hill[i]
Abraham Lincoln’s Story

During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln was greatly respected and greatly reviled. Blamed for plunging this nation into a civil war, he was the president people loved to hate. Those who opposed his views regarding the war and slavery, as well as his efforts to keep them united, were vocal and uninhibited in denouncing him.

One day during one of the darkest periods of this presidency, Lincoln was walking down a street near the Capitol in Washington when an acquaintance caught up with him. As they walked, the man brought up the subject of the growing anti-Lincoln sentiment flowing in Washington and throughout the country.

With brutal honesty, the man related to Lincoln many of the stores outlining attacks on Lincoln and his policies. As the man spoke, Lincoln remained completely silent and absorbed in his thoughts.
Lincoln stopped, looked directly at his and said: ”Yes, I have heard you, but let me tell you a story. You know that during the time of the full moon it is the habit of all dogs to come at the night and bark and bark and bark at the moon.

This keeps on as long as the moon is clearly visible in the sky.” Then he stopped speaking and continued his walk. Confused by Lincoln’s response, his exasperated companion persisted “Mr. Lincoln”s, you haven’t finished your story. Tell me that rest of it! Once again Lincoln’s stopped walking and said: There is nothing more to say. The moon keeps right on shining.”[ii]

President Lincoln is an excellent role model for managing criticism. Although he was aware of his shortcoming and knew that many highly respected and influential people disagreed with him, the president listened to the criticism and followed his intuitive sense that his policies would eventually win over critics and variety the country.

One of the life’s challenging realities is the fact that there are always people around who are our faults finders, people who seldom see the good but are quick to point out the negative.  Like Abraham Lincoln, all of us need to find ways of hearing criticism without being detracted or destroyed by it.
Fear of criticism is an enormous challenge for many entrepreneurs, particularly women.
Dr. Seuss “ Be who you are and say what you fee because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”[iii]

I love this quote from Darrell Stetler Ii, a Methodist Pastor in Kentucky, “One of the most natural things that humans do is be afraid of what other people will think. You may not believe that this affects you might not be a part of something like this:

The “Dependent Order of Really Meek and Timid Souls”? When you make the acrostic of the first letters of its name you have the world “Doormats.” The Doormats have an official insignia-a yellow caution light. The official motto is: “The meek shall inherit the earth if that’s ok with everybody!”

Have you ever caught yourself in the mind trap of “If I am “perfect” for my actions, no one will criticize me? Have you ever noticed how tough this is to pull off? If you try and live like a chameleon around everybody hoping to keep them all happy you will end up tired, frustrated and hurt. I bet even as you are reading these words you are feeling your heart beat increase. 

When people are so afraid of criticism, they tend to overcompensate in their actions at the expense of what is critical about life connection, compassion, love, open-heartedness. 

Some of the devastating adverse effects of the crippling effects of fear of criticism include:

  1. Abandoning your dream, your why, in preference to being a part of the group.
  2. Playing it safe, by holding your cards close and minimizing any risk.
  3. Being overly defensive when good people offer helpful advice or constructive criticism.
  4. Becoming shy and introverted out of the fear that others might not want to hear your opinion, so you just keep it to yourself.

Raed 2 Timothy 1:7

[i] Darius Styl, “Understanding the Fear of Criticism: According to Napoleon Hill,” Christian Rationality.Reason.Faith.Christ.Virtue.http://www.christianrationality.com/2016/08/08/understanding-the-fear-of-criticism-according-to-napoleon-hill/ (Author’s note – this is an interesting read!) Accessed August 2016.

[ii] Victor Parachin, “The Moon Keeps on Shining”…and Other Ways of Dealing with Criticism.” Leadership with a Conscience, http://www.perdidomagazine.com/articles/moon-keeps-shining-and-other-ways-dealing-criticism. Accessed August 2015.

One thought on “Abe Lincoln and Fear of Criticism

  1. This is excellent. Everyone needs to be bold!
    And let the chips fall as they may.
    You can never please everyone
    Always be yourself as there is only one you
    Thanks John….well done!!

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