Criticism as a defense mechanism: Don’t let it stop you from greatness!

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” -Aristotle

“Criticism is a natural by-product of success. Welcome it!”


“Would you like to donate $1 to Muscular Dystrophy Research?”

I think I was at Safeway when I was asked this question. Or was it Carl’s Jr.? Or was it Taco Bell? Or was it Roth’s?
Oh, right, it was probably all of them.

“No, thank you.” But then my inner pretend-sociologist kicked in. “Hey, out of curiosity, when someone says no, how do they usually respond?” I asked the clerk.

She half-smiled, half-sighed. With an exasperated look, she answered my question. “Oh, lots of different ways. Sometimes they tell me their life story, and why they can’t donate. Sometimes, they list off all of the other things that they donate money to. Sometimes, they actually get frustrated at me just for asking! I’m just like ‘It’s okay to say no! It’s fine, I’m not judging you!’”


(Sidenote: Generosity is a hard topic for me to blog about, because of Jesus’s teachings on it. If I’m not generous, then I feel ashamed and I have to hide the fact that I’m not generous. But if I am generous, then Jesus basically tells me to shut up about it. So you can never know whether I’m generous or stingy, because I won’t tell you. Oh well.)


Here’s what I found so interesting in her response: Why would anyone get mad at Safeway for doing a good thing? “Oh, there’s probably a few people, not too many.” But no, the Safeway clerk said otherwise. It’s common, strangely. Even if they don’t get mad, they get defensive.



What we found here was this, and ask any clerk who has asked anyone to donate a dollar to (insert non-profit here) if this is true or not: A successful fundraiser/action/donation/etc. draws out a defensive reaction from people. Why?


Actually, I’ve come to find it’s much bigger than just fundraisers.


Any success, whether moral/financial/business/personal, draws out a defensive reaction from people. And that is often where criticism comes from.


In fact, think about this! If somebody takes a good, selfless, charitable action, such that a critic couldn’t find anything wrong with it, the critic falls back on this tried and true tactic: suggesting a different good action that the person should have taken, in lieu of the one that they did!
For example, have you ever heard this classic line at church? “Missions, missions, missions. All this talk about missions. We have plenty of needs right here in our neighborhood. What about those?”

Are you kidding me? As though donating to missions or doing missions work is a bad thing or something?

Nobody is shouting it from the rooftops…but I’m going to venture a dangerous guess that will never be confirmed or denied. What do you want to bet that the person who brings up this criticism is not donating money to either domestic needs or missions work?

It is simply that the call to action, and the celebration of others’ good actions, draws a defensive reaction from people.


We could go for hours with examples. But what I want to point out is that in all aspects of our lives, success draws criticism.

Publicly gush about how great your wife is on Facebook? You’re showboating. Showing off your marriage. I’ll bet you have issues that you’re hiding. Who you trying to impress?

Gush about your kids? “Oh, just wait until they’re teenagers. You’re in for it.”

Make money and buy yourself something? “Oh, that money SHOULD have been spent like blah-blah-blah”

Make money and do something good with it? “Oh, I don’t know why you’re donating money to X when you could be donating money to Y.”



Those who take action or go public in any way open themselves up for criticism. It is unavoidable.

But this is what I believe to be the biggest tragedy: When somebody, somewhere, doesn’t take a good action for fear of being criticized. And I believe that this does, in fact, happen.

I always liked to answer questions and ask questions in youth group growing up, in Bible studies, etc. But then, as we talked about Pharisees and about how they loved to be seen by men, it caused a question to cross my mind…

“Carson, what if you’re raising your hand just to be seen? Just for attention?”

It was a good question. I mean, I’m not shy…I do enjoy the limelight. I do enjoy the attention. So does that mean I need to put my hand down? And stop talking?

Just as I was considering stepping back a little bit, someone talked to me. “Hey, I like the questions you ask, and your thoughts. I’m always glad when you show up for the Bible study.”

So I made the decision that day: For me to not raise my hand because people might perceive me as too attention grabby? That concern about how others would perceive me was, in fact, actually self-centered. When there is a good thing to be done, good words to say, then I should take the action. Haters gonna hate.




I was reading an article about “second-level thinking” (whatever that means…I’m still learning about it) and there was a new concept I hadn’t thought about before. “First level thinking deals with isolated incidents, second level thinking deals with probabilities.”

If I suggested a change to how we run our martial arts school, then good thinkers would not just “accept” it. However, the “first-level” thinker would think of that one person who wouldn’t like the change, and why they wouldn’t like it. The “second-level” thinker might think the same thing, but they would think “okay, how often is that concern likely to come up, and do we gain more than we are likely to lose if that concern comes up often?”

Therefore, according to this concept, the “first-level thinker” would let that one person, that one possibility, that one criticism, stop them. The second-level thinker doesn’t go in blindly, but it takes more than one kink to stop them.



To the dreamer/fighter/entrepreneur in all of us: Don’t let the critic get you down. And, in fact, don’t even try to avoid criticism. Choose who you want to be and go dominated it. Know that you WILL get criticized, and that if you aren’t getting criticized, you aren’t accomplishing anything.

To the critic in all of us, and yes, I know it’s present within me: Any of us can be careless instead of careful with our words. Here’s what I know…I don’t want to be the one who stopped someone from doing something great because they didn’t want to be criticized by me.

I don’t want anybody to hold back or not try something because they thought they would look silly or stupid in my eyes. I want to be someone who spurs people to take action and try new things, not someone who inhibits them and makes them feel self-conscious.


“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)


“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

“I have an extra bowl of ice cream”

What is Mastership in the Martial Arts, and what does it look like for me?


It is currently 1:24 AM in Little Rock, Arkansas. My laptop says 11:24 PM because it thinks it’s still in Oregon.


I came to Little Rock for the ATA World Expo, to get training, but also, to test for my 6th Degree Black Belt. Now, all of us who tested are waiting for the results, which could take up to 4 weeks. Then I will find out if I passed or not.


For any readers who are not well versed in ATA, 6th Degree is about 20+ years of training. If you become a 6th Degree, you instantly are now a “Master Candidate” and if you meet all of your requirements over the next year, you are inducted as a Master Instructor in the ATA. Which brings me to my blog post.


From what I have heard, from all who are currently Masters, the “Candidate” year has a lot of thinking to it. What does it mean to be a Master? How did I get here? What kind of Master will I be? What expertise do I have? How am I viewed? What do I bring to the table? What’s my vision? How does that work with the ATA’s vision? What do I bring to the table?


It all wraps around this question: What kind of Master will I be?


And what is that question asking? Is it asking “What are my qualifications & expertise”? Is it asking about what I value? How I am perceived? How do I want to be perceived?


Vanity of Vanities – Depressing or Freeing?


To answer that for what I see for me, at this moment, I need to rewind back to my college days at Corban University. Specifically, something that Dr. Gary Derickson said. It was about the Bible, about the book of Ecclesiastes (I’m going to  butcher it, because it has been so many years):


“A lot of people believe that Ecclesiastes is a depressing book. ‘Everything is meaningless. Meaningless! Vanity!’ But no, Ecclesiastes is a freeing book. It is only depressing to those whose hopes are here on this Earth. But when I realize that everything is meaningless, it reminds me not to put my hope here.”

“So here’s how I apply the truth of Ecclesiastes to my life: When I go to the cafeteria, when everyone else is dieting, I have an extra bowl of ice cream.”


Now, here’s the disclaimer: Don’t misapply the concept. Healthy living, and good stewardship of our bodies, that’s a good thing and I get that. But to put Dr. Derickson’s words (and personality) in my own words, he was really saying “Ecclesiastes says…stop taking everything so flippin seriously.”

While many Christians read Ecclesiastes and read “Everything is meaningless, so DESPAIR!” Dr. Derickson read “Everything is meaningless, so RELAX, man!” There is freedom to the book.

Its summary is found in chapter 12, verse 13: Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”


God wants us to love and obey Him, and love others…but He also wants us to enjoy our time here

We are often taught that we, as Christians, have two priorities: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” In that order. And I do believe that those should be priorities. But there is a third priority, and I believe that this is a truth that can be seen in the Garden of Eden.

  1. Treat God how He wants to be treated. He wants your faith, He wants to be loved, and He wants to be worshipped. And He is deserving of such.
  2. Treat others the way God wants you to treat them. Which is by the Golden Rule. Love others.
  3. Once the other two are met: It’s okay to enjoy this world. Oh, and help others to enjoy it, too.


God did not put humans on this planet Earth and then say “Now, if you enjoy it, you are a sucky Christian, because you’re really only supposed to want heaven.” God made this planet a masterpiece and put all sorts of things here because he wanted us to enjoy it, and glorify Him.


So get ready for it: If we are to live the Christian life, to the fullest, we should stay away from selfishness…but we should also enjoy this world, and everything good that God made for us!


And that includes hobbies, passions, interests. They should not be priority 1. They should not be priority 2. But they should be priority 3.


So what does that have to do with Mastership?


I want to prioritize eternal beings. That means…

  1. The Eternal One (God)
  2. Anybody created in His image (Mankind)

Once those priorities are met, then…

  1. I want to enjoy this life God gave me, and help others to enjoy it, too.


I am not really a huge stickler on protocol, unless I know what the protocol is meant to teach and why it’s there. If I doesn’t teach anything, then it is a human ritual that will die when we die.

I AM a stickler on discipline. Choosing a right course of action when you feel like doing something else. Why? Because it hits all three of those priorities…

  1. It takes discipline to make time for God.
  2. It takes discipline to be kind to someone when you’re angry, but the golden rule demands it.
  3. A lack of discipline will greatly limit someone’s ability to enjoy life. Spending tomorrow’s money today excessively will prevent someone from enjoying their life to the fullest.


And that’s why I teach Taekwondo. To help people to become more enjoyable to be around, and to help them to enjoy life.


And that’s why I love tournaments. They are fun. Pushing yourself, via competition, to be the very best that you can be is an enjoyable experience.


So, if I passed this testing, how do I want to be perceived as a Master?

I’m going to crack jokes, razz people, and goof off. It is my hope that it sends a message: As soon as you take this stuff so seriously that you can’t enjoy it, it loses the whole purpose.

I will always take discipline very seriously.

God should be taken seriously.

People’s needs should be taken seriously.

Self-defense, the ability to protect yourself or someone else from an attack, that should be taken very seriously.

Learning to respect others, should be taken very seriously.

Understanding bullying, and learning bully prevention, should be taken very seriously.

Anything that DAMAGES another human being, physically or mentally, should be taken seriously. And learning how to prevent that damage, should be taken seriously.

As for everything else…eh. It will no good to us dead, anyway.


So I’m the judge that goofs off at your competition. To remind you: Have fun with this. Have fun pushing yourself to be your best. As soon as it’s so serious you don’t enjoy it anymore…either find a way to get your passion back, or get out of the game. Because that’s what it is, a game. And a great one at that.


If I got my 6th Degree, then next year, I’ll be the Master who has an extra bowl of ice cream.


P.S. After I finished this blog post, I imagined someone reading this and then thinking “He probably typed that because he saw someone taking this competition thing way too seriously this week.” NOT AT ALL.

Actually, I overwhelmingly saw a bunch of Black Belts who truly just love the sport, and love the comraderie with others who also love the sport. In all the people I got to judge, compete against, and/or talk to, I saw people who were competing for the love of the sport, and made everyone else also feel like they were part of their ATA Family.

Easter: Because contrary to popular opinion, Christianity is not about “no” but rather about “yes”

This last week, I was reminded of something as a martial arts instructor. Yes, I already knew it, but every now and then this truth resurfaces. And it is the power of the positive.

But when I say positive, I really don’t mean a “yay, happy, joy, good feelings!” positive, but rather a “Yes” positive.

You see, I was teaching some students how to have better balance on their kicks, and an old class management skill flashed across my brain:
“Use positive correction rather than criticism”

Or, in my own words…

“Stop telling the students what NOT to do, and start telling them what to do.”

There can be fifty wrong ways to do a technique, but there’s often one right way (okay, sometimes two or three, but the point stands). I can be a more effective instructor and waste less time if I spend my time on the YES’s instead of the NO’s.

So for balance? STOP saying “Don’t drop your hands” and say “Put your hands where you want them!” STOP saying “Don’t hop!” and say “Bend your base knee!” Stuff like that.

So what does this have to do with Easter?

A sermon that I heard at Generation Unleashed in Portland sticks out in my mind. “Everybody talks about that ONE tree that God told Adam and Eve not to eat from, but nobody is talking about the YES trees. You know, every single other tree in the garden of Eden that they were told that they could FREELY eat from.

In this season of politics, Christians are known for what they are against. (Like there’s anything new to that.) All the things that we say that you can’t do, or you can’t partake in, or any of that stuff. And hey, there’s a reason that God speaks against certain things, and woe to the person who says “Yes” to that which God says “No” to. And woe to the person who says “Uh, I don’t really know, that’s between each person and God” to that which God says “No” to. When God says “No”, then my opinion or my preference or my feelings are non-issues.

However, Easter presents this: God is a “Yes” God. Please do not misunderstand…I do not mean to say that God is a “Whatever you want, buddy” God. But God is a Yes God. While many people are pissing and moaning about the things we can’t do because of God’s commands, God is a God who generously gives opportunities.

While many believe that the Church (as God’s representative, imperfect as she is) is asking them to give up their money, God is providing many of us more money than we actually need (if you disagree, yet you own a video game system, then sit your butt down).

While many believe that God’s commands are sexually prohibitive (some would argue that this is the number one reason people walk away from God, conscious or subconscious), God is the one who provided your genitalia, and the correlated pleasure receptors.

While many, like me, have lost a parent or a loved one, or are losing a parent or a loved one, it is easy in a time of incredible tragedy to lose sight of the fact that every previous breath was provided by God, anyway (This is, in no way, meant to “downplay” the pain or the grieving. Rather, please know that God is your friend during this grieving…not your enemy).

And while many have called on the argument of “How could a good God send someone to hell?” (How could God remove us from something so good, like Heaven or eternal happiness/fullness/wellness) Easter represents God presenting an opportunity.

Is God about removing opportunities? Or is He giving opportunities?


He is risen. For those who like to intellectually grapple with Christianity: This means that Jesus wasn’t full of it…that His message was endorsed by God the Father Himself, because what other explanation makes sense?


Easter. He is risen.


The opportunity is given. God’s yes is given.

So what now?




For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV)