Today I tip-toe around a topic that is imbedded with emotional triggers for many of us. That is the subject of fault-finding. It’s easy to criticize political figures, celebrities, and other people we do not like. However, if we spend our time focusing on the faults of others, we have little time or motivation to devote to our own personal progress. After all, it’s easy to enumerate the flaws in others when we’re not eager to look at our own flaws.
The fact is, we also harbor faults. When we honestly admit them without beating ourselves up, we are well on our way to becoming the best versions of ourselves. To contemplate our own flaws in a compassionate manner is perhaps one of the best things we can do for ourselves. When we understand our own shortcomings, it is easier to understand the shortcomings of others. This is not to give anyone a free pass to harmful speech and actions; this is a way towards deepening our empathy and compassion.
My old guru repeatedly reminded his students that to be willfully ignorant of our own faults is a tragic misfortune. It is tempting to point out the flaws of our adversaries. On the other hand, using the old meme about finger pointing is helpful. That is, when I point a finger at someone, I have three fingers pointing back at me. By truly understanding this, we deal with the faults of others and ourselves more calmly and gently. This helps keep our minds clear of the clouding effect of anger.
Every person who has ever lived, now lives, and will live in the future has faults and weaknesses. The most honorable, respected individuals have them. By discovering and learning about our own faults, we become less attached to them. One must be careful that in knowing them, we do not make the mistake of loving them. To do so is one of the marks of a manipulative personality. Loving one’s faults instead of correcting them is a double trap. Wedding oneself to a fault is a double “evil” because that action is an irrational affliction that clouds one’s better judgment. This is a major stumbling block on the path of personal betterment.
We know of people who refuse to accept the blame for their own blunders. Although such people believe that they are seen as without fault, the rest of us see the buck-passing as weakness. When we witness someone throwing mud at other people for all the perceived harm he suffers from, we understand that the mudslinger is probably the sole and only cause of his misery.
“It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own. You can’t clear your own fields while you’re counting the rocks on your neighbor’s farm.”–Marcus Tullius Cicero
Multiple teachers of wisdom philosophy mention the concept of warriors. Warriors have the quality of improving their perception of life and strategy by surmounting pitfalls and onerous situations. They create their most effective, honorable selves through trial and error. They often suffer the results of their errors and those of others but do not get caught up in them. Warriors strive to understand their own faults and then conquer them. That is the shorthand version of the warrior’s path.
Perhaps the best takeaway from understanding one’s own faults is that it encourages a humble point of view. When we cultivate a realistic sense of our own human flaws we become more compassionate towards others. My Christian friends take this attitude to heart when they quote Matthew in the Christian Bible, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Regardless of one’s religion or philosophy, when working on our own faults is done authentically and with an open mind, we become stronger.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Ancient Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. “Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”
It’s hard to honestly evaluate ones’ self, but I know I’m a better person for doing it.
Yes, subjectivity is a stumbling block, but being aware of it, is a big help.
I appreciate the honesty of this post. The quotes of Marcus Aurelius are excellent. Even at age 73 in 2023, I’m listening and absorbing so much that is ancient wisdom! Thank you, Swabby, for this timely (for me) post. (Your name intrigues me; are you by any chance a seafarer?)
We stop really living when we stop learning. Swabby is a nickname that was given to me while touring the Royal Navy docks at Portsmouth, England. The name stuck and then became the name of a fictitious sidekick on my radio show back in the day.
In a series of books by William Golding, I recall a reference to sailors speaking “tarpaulin” 🙋♂️
Ah yes, writers are “permitted” the use of words with antiquated definitions. 🙂
Couldn’t agree more.
OMG, this is so easy for me! I’m very, very good at maybe two things, both of them coming up as intangible contributions to my world ~ and very, very BAD at everything else! Socially clueless, verbally pressured, physically feeble, weak at everything from basic math to directional orientation to BOTH names and faces… What a geek!
Well, it looks like we’re both weak regarding associating faces with names and socially challenged. 😎
Haha, sorry to hear it, brother!
We are all perfectly imperfect!