You hear a lot nowadays about people wanting to express what they’re for and not what they’re against — to be positive, and not trapped in a position where they are seen as only being negative. Pope Benedict XVI even talked about this: that people perceive the Church as always saying no to this and no to that, when it’s really all about saying yes to God.
The trouble is that there’s a lot of people who refuse to take no for an answer. On anything.
I was just reading about a book coming out, for example, whose author urges the reader not to accept criticism from anybody about anything. Anybody who points out anything that you are doing wrong, either factually or morally, is some kind of hateful person. Your job was to be “bulletproof”, serenely ignoring all comments not entirely admiring of your greatness.
Eheheheh. Wonder what the editing was like with that author.
“On page 57, the second paragraph could use some work.”
“I refuse to accept your right to make such a comment, which hits at my personhood and my craft.”
“Ohhhhkay. And on page 293, did you really mean to imply that all your critics murder goats for fun?”
“I affirm my right and duty to speak the truth about goatmurderers in all walks of life, including editors.”
The thing is, you can’t get around to being positive without clearing out all the underbrush first — or at least a good proportion of the bad stuff you do that holds you back. If you do something positive, you have to go back and take care of the negatives that would undermine it. If you try to focus on all the good things you do while ignoring all the bad things you do, you could become kind of person who gives lots of money to charity while ripping off everybody you meet. (Or something equally stupid.)
It’s true that some people are overly critical of themselves, consumed with inverted pride. But never checking back to see if your actions are good, effective, efficient, useful, helpful, etc? Not caring at all what other people think of what you do? That’s insanity, literally.
There’s a happy medium out there. Of course we’d all be happier if our yes and our love led us naturally not to do anything that would make us need to say no. Practically speaking, most people are a far ways from perfect love of God and neighbor. It’s rough that teachers of morality get cast as the bad guy. But then, if they ever fail to mention that you shouldn’t do X while teaching lyrically about the wonders of whatever is the opposite of X, people announce that the morality teacher told them it was perfectly okay to do X. Teachers of morality in the public square need to embrace being the bad guy, just like their moms did.
That said, however, we do need to make sure to showcase examples of virtue and achievement. People who are doing it right are a lot more interesting than starlets or Mafiosi who are doing it wrong. (Heck, anybody can be nasty and do nothing with their life. Doesn’t take any effort at all.)