We were talking about the habit of being critical—discussing a person we both knew who was caustically critical (and often entertainingly insulting) about everything. She said she didn’t quite approve of that attitude, because it was so safe.

I was surprised by that word, and asked her what she meant, and she said—more or less—that hating or criticizing everything was safe because it meant you never have to take a stand. Liking something means you are opening yourself up; if nothing is good enough for you it’s another way of saying you’re superior to everything. Very smug, very snug. Being insulting and critical, admittedly a position of attack when face-to-face, is, psychologically, actually a position of retreat.

Mike Johnston on safety.