Part 2: Handling Criticism
A True Story
on Dec 18, 2022
I love blogging so much that I have converted it into my profession. One of the most rewarding blogging experiences, besides earning money from the adverts on this blog, is receiving positive feedback on the stories I post on the blog. Feedback messages such as "a great read" and "you're a talented writer" rejoice my heart.
Blogging is not all fun, though. It can be a bit discouraging when I go for a few days without earning a single shilling from blog adverts. Even more discouraging is getting a nasty feedback from a blog visitor, as I occasionally do.
Last Tuesday, for instance, a Christian friend, whom we know each other on first-name terms, sent me a message asking me to avoid using the pronoun 'I' in the stories I post on this blog. Though his feedback was more of a suggestion than a criticism, it hurt me - a proof that I am not yet thick-skinned enough to handle criticism with grace.
That was not the first time I had been criticized for writing my stories in the first person. Since I took up writing as a hobby in 2010, a few other friends have put me to task over my use of the pronoun 'I' in my stories. I don't know what wrong the friends found in the use of the pronoun 'I'. They probably didn't understand that a healthy self-love is crucial to enjoying life.
Foolishly, I caved in to the criticism from friends and tried omitting the pronoun 'I' in some of the stories I penned in 2016. And yikes! The stories sounded dull to my mind. And they lacked the magic touch that used to lift my spirits.
Since 2016, I have come across writers who have narrated their stories in the first person. Just yesterday, I finished reading Peter Robinson's How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life, an engrossing book about what the author learnt from the 40th President of the United States. Peter Robinson used the word "my" in his book title and proceeded to use the pronoun 'I' throughout the book, just like I do in my blog stories.
Reading such engrossing books written in the first person makes me regret why I caved in to my friends' suggestion that I avoid using the pronoun 'I' in my writings. Truly, the great American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson was spot on when he quipped, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."
I have long since resumed using the pronoun 'I' in my stories. And when I have faced criticism for doing so, like I did last Tuesday, I have sought solace from an observation by Donald Trump, the controversial 45th President of the United States. Donald Trump observed that people wouldn't be criticizing you if they don't find you interesting enough.
The Aesop fable about critics who criticized a man riding a donkey with his son has also comforted me when I have received my share of criticism. You have most likely come across that fable on social media in a cartoon format. It's so insightful it's unforgettable.
As the Aesop fable goes, a man and his son were walking beside their donkey when they met some people who criticized them saying, "You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride on?"
Hurt by the criticism, the man put his son on the donkey and went on their way. Soon they passed by some other people who remarked, "See that lazy youngster - he lets his father walk while he rides."
The man then ordered his son to get off and got on the donkey himself. But they weren't gone far before they encountered another group of people who mocked the man saying, "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."
Wounded by the mockery, the man asked his son to ride with him on the donkey. Sooner than later, they met another group of people who questioned them, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours - you and your hulking son?"
At a loss what to do, the man and his son got off the donkey and then carried it using poles mounted on their shoulders. They weren't gone far before they passed by another group of people who burst out laughing and said, "The man and his son must be crazy for them to carry a donkey!"
The moral of that Aesop fable is that you can't please everybody and that whatever you do, there will still be people who will criticize you. I am therefore thinking that if I omitted the pronoun 'I' from my stories as my Christian friend suggested to me last Tuesday, another person will find something else to criticize me about.
My beloved reader, I beseech you to do whatever you feel is right regardless of what others say. Don't let critics talk you out of who you are. Bravely cultivate that rare thing you possess; the thing that makes you unique. And learn to handle criticism graciously; let it not darken your spirits. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this part 2 story on handling criticism, you might also enjoy part 1 of the story that I wrote more than four years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Drawing Near to God
A True Story
on Dec 13, 2022
About two months ago, I read the evergreen diary of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who died at the age of sixteen in 1945 at the height of World War 2. Anne Frank touched on the issue of God and religion in her diary. She wrote that people who have a religion should be glad, for not everyone has the gift of believing in heavenly things.
I couldn't agree with Anne Frank more that not everyone has the gift of believing in God. There are some people who, no matter how hard you reason with them, just don't see the sense of believing in a God they can't see, hear or touch. And some of those unbelievers are good people in that they don't steal, tell lies or kill innocent humans.
Others are so convinced of God's existence that they spend their days telling others about Him. They can often be spotted on the streets and in buses spreading the gospel of Christ with evangelical zeal. And some of them believe in Christ as the Son of God to the extent that when they meet strangers, they first ask them, "Are you saved?"
As for me, I believe in God and in the Bible as His inerrant Word. But I have not always been this way. In 2006 when I was a computer student at Starehe Institute, I began doubting the literary accuracy of the Bible - something I never hid from the church-mates with whom I attended Catholic masses on Sundays. I even suggested to them that Jesus could have been a fictional legend.
It's not until April 2007 after I joined a choir at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi that I was converted into a believer by choristers who were passionate about the gospel of Christ. They sang spiritually-enriching hymns and gathered for fellowships during which I would be ministered to. One of them had me attend an evangelism course held at the cathedral in 2008.
The teachers and students in the evangelism course welcomed me warmly and treated me with enormous kindness. I enjoyed their company, the Biblical teachings we learnt in the course as well as the tea and buns we partook during the classes. And after about six months of training, I was issued with an evangelism certificate in a graduation ceremony that my father attended.
After I was certified as an evangelist in August 2008, I never bothered to preach to others about what I had learnt in the evangelism course. The closest I came to spreading the Gospel to strangers was in May or June 2011. During that month after I was informed that the evangelism team at All Saints' Cathedral would be travelling to Western Kenya to win souls for Christ, I quickly signed up to be part of the travelling team.
On the days before the evangelism mission to Western Kenya, I was looking forward to the trip, not so much that I could preach the Gospel as to boast to my family that I had travelled. But guess what! When the day of departure reached, a lady in the evangelism team refused to have me travel after I turned up without carrying extra clothes for changing.
Looking back, I am glad that I wasn't permitted to travel to Western Kenya because I don't think I was qualified to preach the Gospel given all the sins I went on to make. Sins such as telling lies, erupting in anger, oversleeping in the morning, running away from home, cracking off-color jokes, plagiarizing other people's stories and putting some of my friends down.
With time, I have come to see more sense in the Bible. It covers all the issues we deal with in life: sex, fear, work, guilt, money, worry, marriage, conflicts, alcohol, bitterness, diseases, corruption, knowledge and friendship. And it also explains the origin of sin and what happens after death - mysteries that Science hasn't unravelled so far.
Because I have come to see more sense in the Bible these days than I did in 2008, I now strive to live by what it says. I strive to love people, to work hard, to be kind, to tell the truth, to say 'no' if need be, to express gratitude, to grow in knowledge, to repent my sins, to think noble thoughts and to forgive those who have wronged me.
Above all, I strive to draw near to God each passing day. I pray a lot, marvel at the creation of His hand and seek His blessing in everything I do. I also sing to Him hymns of praise and thanksgiving. Perhaps most important, I read His Word daily and meditate on what it says. Not an unwise thing for you to do as well, my beloved reader!
RECOMMENDATION If you've enjoyed this story on drawing near to God, you might also enjoy another one on "Lessons From the Bible" that I wrote more than four years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.