What the faults we see in others tell us about ourselves

Our mind often sees outside what is present inside it. If greed or lust are present inside us, we immediately notice the objects that promise to fulfill those cravings and the people who pander to those cravings.

While having such cravings, if we are struggling to control them and are striving to develop our conscience, then our cravings sometimes cunningly co-opt that underdeveloped conscience. That means when we notice others pandering to their cravings, we privately envy them for their enjoyment but publicly condemn them for being so brazenly licentious. Thus, the very fault we criticize is present in us too, though it manifests through us differently — not in indulgence but in vehemence toward indulgence. 

This dynamic applies not just to cravings but also to ideological orientations. Liberals often criticize conservatives for being intolerant. But when those same liberals gain power, they often become intolerant in condemning, even censoring, the conservatives. 

If we obsess over the faults of others, we become not the opposite of those faults but the mirrors of those faults. A mirror shows the same object, just rotated 180 degrees. Therefore, if we see something wrong in others and feel a rage that seems righteous, we need to humbly and honestly evaluate whether that anger is a deflection and distortion of our anger with ourselves. 

Encouraging such self-examination, the Bible states “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Predating that message, the Bhagavad-gita (16.02) states that aversion to faultfinding characterizes a godly nature. 

One-sentence summary: 

The faults we hold others guilty of are often the faults we ourselves are guilty of.

Think it over:

  • How might the cravings we criticize in others be present in us?
  • How is the intolerance that liberals hold conservatives guilty of present in the liberals too?
  • List three things you feel angry about in others. Explore whether those faults are somehow present in you too.

***

16.02: Nonviolence; truthfulness; freedom from anger; renunciation; tranquillity; aversion to faultfinding; compassion for all living entities; freedom from covetousness; gentleness; modesty; steady determination; … – these transcendental qualities belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Insightful article, Prabhuji.

    If someone has the habit of finding faults/condemning them in others, and if we label such people as ‘fault-finders’ or simply avoid them for this bad habit, are we guilty of ‘fault-finding’ ourselves?

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