Self-Criticism or Self-Justification

From the sayings of the Desert Fathers: We have abandoned the light yoke of self-criticism and put on the heavy yoke of self-justification.

How often do we read a proverb or a parable of Jesus and think, “This does not apply to me. I am OK. Never do that.” 

Worse, we read something and think, “Yes, I’ve done that, but….”

Criticism does not necessarily mean negative. It does mean dispassionate evaluation. The ability to put our mind outside ourselves, so to speak, and look at ourselves.

There was a time in my life where I think I had anger issues. I’d don’t remember clearly except for one incident. Maybe I was 10 or 11. I was fighting another kid in the neighborhood. Suddenly I saw myself from outside. It was a moment of epiphany. “What the heck am I doing?” I thought. I got up, quit, and became a personal pacifist from that moment forward.

Although the temper bred from insecurity still showed up from time to time. I can still remember the last time. With great shame, by the way. It was maybe seven or eight years ago. Maybe more. There’s a guy who can get under my skin. He did. I exploded. 

When I should have showed some anger I chose to look at the big picture and let it pass. There was no win.

That thought process is self-criticism. I’m not justifying by saying that person was at fault. I was aware. I didn’t act appropriately. It’s all on me.

Do you know people who have no concept of self-criticism? Especially people with narcissistic tendencies have trouble looking at themselves.

Ask a narcissist, “Don’t you seem to think of yourself first?”, and they will reply, “Yes, of course” as if to say, “Duh.”

I have met these–and even asked the question. And received the answer.

According to a recent study, the best way to get beyond this attitude is to listen–really listen–to others. Hemmingway once said, “When you listen, listen completely. Most people don’t listen.”

As I teach Yoga, I remind the class to listen to their bodies and minds. I want them to become self-aware. That is the first step toward developing the ability to look at ourselves critcally and reward ourselves for steps in the right direction and pull ourselves back onto the right track.

Put on the light yoke of self-criticism. Check your mind and body frequently.

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