“Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When you explicitly refuse to defend yourself amid the criticism of others — criticism of your career, your goals, your dreams, pursuits, lifestyle, whatever it may be — suddenly, critics realize that there is little about you to attack.
Defending yourself (or defending what is being criticized about you) only proves to others that something about you needs defending. When you mount a long-winded, logically-sound case in defense of your dreams and aspirations, the defense reveals that something about you and your lifestyle ought to be defended.
To be defenseless of the cerebral sphere
Defending oneself on this ethereal, spiritual level is quite unlike defending a country, a military base, or something physical that is in need of physical protection. That which is physical can be physically attacked, and thus can be physically destroyed.
That which is not physical but spiritual, mental, and emotional is wholly within: it cannot be touched, harmed or destroyed by the will or criticism of others, no matter how hard they try. Critics can never reach within the walls of your mind and destroy your dreams. Only you can destroy your dreams. Dreams are only destroyed by a dreamer’s choosing.
Yes, critics may mount and lambaste a dreamer for what he or she conjures — for what life we “ought” to lead or what kind of world we “should” strive to create. The literal and social attacks that they launch can truly be so severe that the dreamer succumbs to pressure and allows his or her dream to fade into darkness, to wither without a chance to bloom. Nevertheless, the dream dies only by the dreamer’s choosing.
Should we defend others who are being attacked by critics?
Yes, absolutely. The art of defenselessness is a personal practice — one of the many methods of self-improvement that, with focus and practice, can greatly aid our inner, spiritual development.
The art of defenselessness is a difficult ideal to strive for, but one that is so worth achieving. It entails great patience and understanding, offering your enemies and critics the benefit of the doubt, obligates you to shift your perspective in attempts to understand others’ criticism, and much more. However, we can’t ever expect others around us to be striving to attain the ideals we, as Renegades, set forth in our day-to-day lives. The men and women around us can only engage in such deeply-intimate personal development efforts by their choosing.
Neglecting to defend another person who is under scrutiny and criticism falls under the dangerous category of indifference — a social epidemic that history teaches us can even lead to genocide. When the choice is yours to make, you should always spring to the defense of another who is being unjustly criticized and ganged up on. The easy decision is to fall quiet, to be indifferent — to say, “Someone else will help that person.” If the choice is yours to make, make the choice to stand by the side of that person. Always.
But doesn’t neglecting to defend oneself reveal vulnerability and invite more criticism from others?
Unlike the physical realm where brute force can overcome, deter, and defeat the danger and predation of others, the inner realm is a place where only you reside. Your dreams are your own. Your visions, hopes, and wishes are your own. On this level, when you defend yourself you only present something that needs defense. When you present nothing to defend, attackers and critics soon realize their folly as you strive and overcome and achieve that which they cannot touch, cannot attack, and can’t ever destroy.
Do not defend yourself. Never defend yourself. For in the end, your defense only corroborates that something ought to be defended.
Master the art of defenselessness: overcome your natural reaction to want to respond and defend yourself amid criticism and judgment — even the most severe. For when you sit by idly as you are lashed by the unjust words of onlookers and naysayers, there will always be a silent few who recognize that the attack reveals more about the attacker than the one who sits defenseless.