Spending time with your family this Christmas? If you pay attention, you can learn a lot about yourself.
Me? I’m bad at chiding people – or at least my family.
It seems I find it easy to condemn others for everything from what I see as poor taste and ignorant attitudes to and (ironically) condemnatory attitudes/speech. But it only took one person pointing out to me that I was engaged in more or less the same behavior (namely, condemnation) that I started to see my hypocrisy everywhere.
What I found myself condemning in others was precisely things I don’t like in myself: my occasional poor taste, my ignorance about many things, and my micromanagement/lack of trust in others to do certain jobs.
It was actually astonishing – there’s a close to 1:1 correlation between the criticism I levied (and I’ve found, to my chagrin, that much of it is automatic) and the things worth critiquing in me. I think that’s true for a lot of people: it’s the well-known psychological phenomenon of projection going on. Generally we’ll be most vigorous in criticizing in others the problems we haven’t stamped out in ourself. Or as C.S. Lewis wrote (in regard to pride):
“. . .the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”
There are still quite a few days left in the holiday season. And while I don’t expect be rid of my critical attitude (I’m working on it and try to be conscious), I do expect now that I’ll notice more quickly when I’m just full of it. And more importantly, I’ll learn from what I criticize in others what I most need to resolve in myself. In the meantime, thank goodness for patient family members.