It can be hard to love someone who has flaws. Everybody I meet is so flawed – they are impatient, easily angered, ignorant or cruel. However, there is an esoteric principle that says that what drives us crazy about the people we love is actually our own flaws manifesting. The things that anger us about others are indicative of our own character flaws. It is through the mirror of those we love that we are able to grow and change.
Let me give you a simple example of one of your character flaws
I am always on time. In fact, if I am ever going to be late, I get extremely stressed out. It’s almost crippling. My obsession with being on time has gone from being a sensible way to manage my life to a character trait that can often upset me and cause me to be inefficient. I over-plan and I often arrive at things too early. If I am even minutes late to something, I can’t concentrate and get very flustered. This indicates a control issue on my behalf.
People who are late really annoy me – but that’s my own character flaw
Consequently, when I have repeated contact with someone who is often late, I am very harsh with them. I really can’t stand it and I don’t understand it. But when I examine my feelings more closely, I realise that in fact, I am rallying against a flaw in my own character.
“We see the straw in the eyes of others and we do not see the beam in ours.” Matthew 7:3
It’s important to spend time with people that annoy us
Really, I think this is true. It’s no good to always live without conflict. We all need witnesses in this world – we need people to hold mirrors up to our faces so that we can clearly see who we are.
- People who are slow bother me – but that is because I am impatient.
- People who are ignorant of facts bother me – but that’s because I fail to study their point of view.
- People who have too many materialistic possessions bother me – but that’s because I am as greedy as the next person.
Do we “forget” our own flaws when seeing flaws in others?
There is a branch of philosophy called Epistemology. Epistemology is the branch concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge, (according to Wikipedia) and is also referred to as “theory of knowledge”. Its purpose is to ask “what knowledge is” as well as “how it can be acquired.”
Jeremy Sherman is an epistemologist who spend his time “studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.”
He’s written a great blog post on this subject – “Why Spotting Other People’s Flaws Makes Us Forget Ours”.
Sherman says, “We draw the contrast by exaggerating how bad the person we’re angry at is, but also by exaggerating how good we are in comparison.”
Before you criticise someone else’s flaw: look at your own
Sherman has come up with a technique he calls Me-erring (like “Mirroring”).
He suggests that we should “paraphrase, un-edited, your opponent’s argument just to make sure you heard it right.”
He says, “Before I start ranting, I have to identify a specific time I did something similar.”
I think this is a fair technique. It would certainly help with empathy.
The 7 chief character flaws you probably have
I found a great site that talks about 7 of our worst character flaws. The site says that we all have a ‘chief feature’ that is our defining character flaw. Personally, I think this might be an over simplified way of looking at things. We are not static beings and our flaws shift and change as we age and grow.
For example, the older we get, the more ‘set in our ways’ we become. Whereas young people are often quite impulsive and do not plan enough or think consequences through.
Here are the 7 character flaws (or ‘chief features’) as discussed on Personality & Spirituality
Quite rightly – the site also talks about FEAR being the central problem to most of these character flaws.
Are you actually afraid? Is that why you see others’ character flaws?
Often when I really examine my actions, I see that I am driven by fear. I am afraid of failure, I am afraid of success. I am afraid of being alone, and I am also afraid of being with somebody.
As human beings – we all have fear. Fear is part of our history. Fear has served us well in the past. Fear can keep us safe, fear can keep us from making mistakes. Fear can keep us alive.
But there comes a point when we need to let go of fear – or let go of it as much as we can. To accept our character flaws and embrace them. To not fear them anymore.
I wish you all the best in your spiritual journey. Please be as forgiving of others as you would wish them to be with you.