I saw Michael Bernard Beckwith perform a re-commitment ceremony for a married couple a few years back and it blew me away. He looked at the husband and said, "Your job is to be her biggest fan and her greatest critic for the purpose of her spiritual development." He then turned to the wife and said the same thing to her about him.
As simple of a concept as this was for me to understand, I'd never heard anyone say it quite like that before. As what he said registered with me, I was moved deeply and began to cry. I realized that so often I'd struggled with what felt like my conflicting desires to share my love and appreciation with my wife Michelle, and also to let her know when something didn't work for me or when I thought she was "off" in certain aspects of her life. I noticed that I was usually "hot or cold" about this. I was either completely focused on appreciating her or completely focused on being critical of her, or withholding my feedback to avoid hurting her feelings.
Hearing Michael say this, however, made me realize that both of these things—appreciation and feedback—are essential, not only for the health of a relationship, but also for the personal growth and development of each person.
These two important things, being a fan and a critic, are often seen as opposites when viewed from an adolescent perspective. But upon deeper reflection, it becomes clear that they're intricately connected and fundamentally important for the success of not only a marriage, but any important relationship for which we want a genuine sense of trust, connection and authenticity.
Our ability, or often inability, to express our genuine appreciation for someone else is directly related to how safe or comfortable we feel giving critical feedback to that same person. In other words, the more open we are to giving and receiving honest (and sometimes critical) feedback in a particular relationship, the more capacity we have to express and experience genuine appreciation with that person. And when we don't feel safe or comfortable giving someone honest feedback, or often just aren't willing, it actually diminishes our ability to acknowledge them in a real way. Ultimately, it diminishes our relationship with them in general. Our goal is to be a real fan and a conscious critic of the important people in our life.
What does it mean to be a real fan and a conscious critic?