The Critic and the Cheerleader By Michael Bernard Beckwith
Relationships are at the core of everything we experience in life. From our relationships with intimate partners, family, friends, colleagues, employers and employees, to Nature and the environment, and most importantly, our relationship with our Self and Spirit, how we relate influences and shapes our lives more than we imagine. In a series of eight articles on relationship, master teacher, creator of the Life Visioning™ process, and founder and Spiritual Director of the Agape International Spiritual Center Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith provides clarity and insight into the true nature of relationships, and how to create and experience them from a place of unconditional love, wholeness, and well-being.
The purpose of relationships is for us to support one another in our respective evolutions. Our relationships serve as a space to strengthen our capacity to see the potential in each other and call it forth, as well as activate our gifts and talents and hold each other responsible for the activation of those gifts.
In the course of an intimate relationship, individuals take on the mantle of being the cheerleader and the critic. You have to have both in a dynamic. In a mature relationship, there has to be the place where the individual is supporting the other individual, pointing out her gifts, cheering her on, seeing the opportunities, and helping her to reach her potential. There’s an intimate trust there that allows you to know that person is on your side. They want you to succeed, they want you to be the best that you can possibly be, and they want you to express your gifts in the world. They're not trying to hold you back from any sense of greatness or any sense of divine creativity that's seeking to come through you. This is the cheerleading aspect to it.
At the same time there is the critic. From the critic aspect, the individual is honest enough to let the person know when their proverbial slip is showing (or their zipper is down). They’re honest enough to let you know those areas that may need growth. The critic doesn’t come with judgment, malice, or rivalry, but a loving candor. But this can only happen if the individuals are maturing, which comes back to having a deep sense of self-love and appreciation.
If we do not have self-love and appreciation and a level of patience and compassion with ourselves, we won’t have it in relationship with another.
- Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith
We’re not going to have patience when another’s issues show up in our face. We’re going to be judgmental, impatient, and overly critical because we don't have the capacity to embrace our own peculiarities and slip-hangings. If we’re not embracing ourselves, we’re definitely not going to embrace an individual with whom we’re in relationship when the rubber hits the road. We’re going to treat that person exactly as we treat ourselves. We’re going to be overly critical of and mad at ourselves, and as a result, project that outwards into the relationship.
In any given relationship, there has to be the dynamic of self-love and appreciation. Self-love and appreciation are the beginning stages of your unfoldment. It's actually where you start on your path. You begin your relationship with self-love and appreciation by looking at yourself honestly and having an honest inquiry. You take inventory within yourself and notice where you need to grow and if you're holding on to a romantic idea that you're perfect.
If you’re holding a romantic idea, then from your perspective, there’s nothing left to work on in your life. What’s really happening is that you're setting yourself up to be pushed by pain rather than being pulled by a vision. With radical honesty and a self-inquiry, you learn to fall in love with yourself and not split yourself up by saying, “I love this part and I hate this part.” You begin to learn to have the capacity to love all of you, the whole of you, even in your woundedness. And, you begin to recognize that your woundedness is actually a gift.
You may not be able to see the gift in being wounded, but trust me when I say that it is a gift. For most, the wounds are unconscious and represent parts of themselves that haven’t been embraced. It's an unfamiliar energy. And so instead of learning what it is, we often seek to set it to the side, sublimate it, hide it, cover it up, or create a persona of its opposite. As a result, we end up disempowering ourselves. Unless we can embrace all of who we are, then we're not fully empowered. There's always something over here that we don't like, that we haven't embraced, and that we haven't loved into maturity. This is the gift of relationship as it provides a space for the wounds to be revealed in order to be healed.
There’s always a tremendous amount of work – reverential work on ourselves – around self-love and appreciation. This allows us to appreciate what God has created and positions us to appreciate our inherent Divinity and the perfection and wholeness that is here. We also begin to appreciate the areas of growth in the woundedness or the painful places of our lives and start to cherish what's underneath that is seeking to emerge and be expressed.
When we begin to uncover self-love and appreciation, peace is re-activated and we discover that our relationships serve and support us in the ways that they’re intended: as spaces for the evolution and expansion of our true nature as Divine Love.