• Are you a critic or a champion?

    “Are you a critic or a champion?”

    In August of 2010 I launched this column with an essay on this subject. Back then, everyone seemed to be a critic. Today, things are the same if not worse. Criticism is in the air especially but not limited to political opinions. Critics are generally against things, and champions are generally for things. It is easy being a critic. After all, we are human, with many imperfections. Pick any topic and it’s easy to criticize something about it. It’s easy to find something “wrong” with any champion’s position.

    Some make a sport of being critics. These people often enjoy the argument independent of the issue. Others just enjoy making someone else “wrong.” A few are focused on denigrating, ridiculing, if not demonizing those with different views. Critics are masterful at finding the weakest points in someone else’s position. Put two critics in a room and you’ll likely see limited listening and each person talking past the other. With so much criticism in the air, are the champions going underground? What has happened to the practice of civility in public discourse?


    By now, you probably have concluded that I am being a critic of the critics. Don’t get me wrong. We are all critics and champions at different points in time. In fact, criticism is an important part of self-expression. My point is, we seem to be out of balance these days. I hear more criticism than championship. Being a champion is standing for something. It goes beyond being against something. While some leaders try to “rally the troops” by finding a common enemy, that approach usually has a short “half life.” Most leaders mobilize others by championing something positive about the future.

    I am for “responsible contention.” “Responsible contention” is a generative debate with the objective of improving upon an idea. Without champions who advocate, we would live in the status quo. Without critics who challenge our thinking, we would have no improvement. Without mutual respect, tolerance and civility, we would have no learning or innovation.


    Next time you are tempted to criticize, ask yourself, What in this situation can I champion rather than criticize?

    Pushing the Edge of Your Thinking …

    • Do you tend toward being a critic or a champion? Why?
    • How do you think others see you?
    • How do you relate to critics? Champions?
    • What is your tolerance for differing positions?
    • How do we teach our children civil discourse, tolerance and championship?


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