Spirituality needs to be able to tackle criticism because, not infrequently, people who say they are spiritual, if they get confronted with criticism of their ideas or their life, find nothing better than getting irritated or denigrating criticism itself, the excessive use of human intelligence, or taking refuge in the uncontrollable, that is, the heart, feelings, intuition, which are places where superficiality and imposture can find a fertile ground. On the opposite side there are those who would never tire of arguing, they love posh chat, provided that they are not touched in their personal responsibilities; some typical examples of both cases are in the Gospels. On the other hand, once spirituality, as inner life, is considered as the lifestyle to which one adheres with their whole being, it is understandable that criticism is felt not as a simple pleasure of reasoning and discussing, but as an attack against the person. Furthermore, spirituality, even if it is related to philosophy, is more an experience, a journey, than just reflection, disquisition, so that it is not difficult, even for authentically spiritual and serious people, to feel displaced, unprepared, if they face shrewd criticisms. Spiritual people do not set being specialists in reflection as a goal of their life: this specialty belongs to philosophers, theologians, mathematicians; rather, the spiritual person intends to make exist in herself a life experience that can be appreciated for depth, richness of meaning, adherence to concreteness and to the human.
Then, how can we keep us capable of confrontation with criticism while at the same time not wasting too much time in preparing answers to all imaginable criticism? Here are some ways that can help.
One way is humility: the spiritual person does not claim to have a ready answer for any question, in spite of how instead these people are often imagined or they show themselves. In this sense, the spiritual person admits the criticism of her ideas and her lifestyle, without this having to imply to abandon her way. Not knowing how to answer gives obviously a bad impression in front of the community, but, about this, we have the dramatic example of Jesus, whose silence, when he was tried by the priests of the temple, was transmitted to us not as a bad impression, but even as a judgment of condemnation of his accusers. In this context, we understand that humility is a beautiful thing in a contexts of serenity, but it may require heroic strength to avoid being plagiarized by popular judgment. Actually, from a psychological point of view, all of us are to some extent dependent on the judgment received from others; however, the spiritual person knows that she cannot give too much space to this dependence, we cannot adapt to the image of ourselves that other people want to impose on us. This, evidently, gives already a glimpse of the prospect of a spirituality work to be planned and cultivated with constancy and organization.
Another way of reacting to criticism consists in criticism of criticism; that is, if everything can be criticized, this also means that there is no criticism that cannot in turn be demolished with other criticism. However, since the spiritual person cannot spend her life in studying how to react to every criticism, it will be good to keep in mind some criteria capable of demolishing them all. One criterion is that of the limits of our awareness: to anyone who criticizes us it will always be possible to point out that there may be aspects of the question that both us and them are missing; this means that no criticism can ever make a claim to be definitive.
It may be noted that these paths, which I have indicated, presuppose, however, on the part of spirituality, an appreciation of criticism as an indispensable tool for growth, and not as an enemy to avoid.