I wasn't sure how to begin this post, so I suppose I'll begin with myself. I don't like getting so personal, even though I have written some very personal things on here before, but I feel this is an important point to make.
It's very difficult to listen to other people's critical opinions concerning myself. I'm sure this is true for most people. When someone voices a criticism, it's as though that voiced criticism has a power ten times greater than anything going on in my own mind. So even if I previously believed I could do something, once someone verbalizes a doubt, I begin to doubt myself.
This is a bad thing. No one else's opinion about yourself should have that much weight. You should listen to that person's opinion, you should decide if you feel it is a valuable one, and you should take from it what you think reasonable. You should not in any way allow that person's opinion to define the way you think of yourself. Just because someone voices something does not mean that thing is accurate or true. And speaking something aloud does not give that thing any power if other people do not allow it to have power - if you don't allow it to have power.
On the other hand, an opinion expressed now has a life. It is up to you to decide if that opinion is silly, whereupon you can quash it with your own common sense, or if it has validity. If you determine it to be valid in some way, you can internalize those valid parts and use them to improve yourself.
Now let's extend this beyond the personal.
If someone criticizes an institution, does it mean that criticism is true? Of course not. It is one person's biased opinion - and opinions are nearly always biased. Everyone comes from his/her own point of view and each point of view is unique.
However, once that criticism is voiced, others may listen to it and agree. Or even if they do not agree, they may suddenly be considering that opinion. It is in their heads. It has a life.
This does NOT mean it is correct, nor does it mean the person voicing this opinion should be bashed for doing so. What it means is that someone who believes differently should voice his own opinion.
You see, before any opinions are expressed, they are believed. One person may speak them aloud, but many others are already thinking them in their heads. Keeping voices silent does not keep thoughts silent, and silent thoughts are almost more dangerous than ones verbalized in discussion.
Discussion is the key here. Without discussion, there cannot be real growth. Why do people learn in chavrusas? Because it is the discussion, the back and forth, that enables greater understanding. Otherwise, everyone should just learn on his own and keep his own thoughts to himself. That way they won't interfere with someone else's thoughts - right? They won't mess anything up for anyone.
Is that really an ideal way to exist? To have everyone think his own things in an isolated bubble of belief? How can we be one nation if we don't intellectually and religiously engage one another?
If there is a strong voice on one side, make sure you have an equally strong voice on your own side. There is nothing to be afraid of that way. Discussion is not to be feared. Without it, you would never get to explain to someone else why what you believe makes sense.
Someone of a different opinion would have no influence.
But neither would you.