The anti-narcissism cure: using criticism as a teacher

By Matthieu Ricard on July 25, 2012

The great Tibetan master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) often taught on how to use criticism to improve oneself instead of feeling injured in one's self-esteem.

‟When you are criticized, accept it as an opportunity to acknowledge your hidden faults and increase your humility. Criticism is like a teacher, destroying attachment and pride. If integrated into the path, harsh words and blame will inspire your practice and strengthen your discipline. How, therefore, could you but wish to repay the one who has criticized you for his a kindness?

Happiness and suffering that come from praise and criticism are ephemeral. When you are complimented, instead of feeling proud just regard the praise as if it were something you were hearing in a dream or a fantasy. Tell yourself that the object of the praise is not you but the good qualities you may have developed through spiritual practice. In reality, only the sublime beings who have attained liberation are really worthy of praise.

If our faults are pointed out, even by our own parents or teachers, we become upset. However, we are delighted when we are flattered, even if we are attributed qualities we do not possess. As the saying goes, ‟those who always agree with us and flatter us make us feel good about ourselves, but do not help us to develop our spiritual qualities.” Those who point out our faults and show us how to deal with them however, truly help us. It is through repeated beating and melting that gold is refined. In the same way, it is by continually recognizing our own faults and following a true teacher's instructions that we are able to transform our weaknesses and negative qualities into tools on the path of liberation.

When a troublemaker is identified and apprehended, peace returns to the village. Similarly, when our faults are revealed by a truly compassionate teacher, enabling us to recognize and eradicate them, peace returns to our being. The true spiritual teacher speaks frankly, striking at the core of our faults in order to lead us onto the right path.”