Self-Criticism: Daring to Look in the Mirror



Most people don’t like the world as it is. They feel that the world is problematic and that their life is not as it should be because of the way the world is.

When anything goes wrong with their lives, they blame people or situations. To them, everyone other than themselves is at fault. Naturally, they are in a continuous trouble with others. They get easily angry, offended, and are always ready to criticize.

Those people truly want to change the world. But they don’t realize that they are part of the world, and they rarely come to think that they themselves might be as problematic as what they criticize.

There is a great Sufi story that reflects on this:

Bayazid, a Sufi mystic, has written in his autobiography, “When I was young I thought and I said to God, and in all my prayers this was the base: ‘Give me energy so that I can change the whole world.’ Everybody looked wrong to me. I was a revolutionary and I wanted to change the face of the earth.

“When I became a little more mature I started praying: ‘This seems to be too much. Life is going out of my hands–almost half of my life is gone and I have not changed a single person, and the whole world is too much.’ So I said to God, ‘My family will be enough. Let me change my family.’

“And when I became old,” says Bayazid, “I realized that even the family is too much, and who am I to change them? Then I realized that if I can change myself that will be enough, more than enough. I prayed to God, ‘Now I have come to the right point. At least allow me to do this: I would like to change myself.’

“God replied, ‘Now there is no time left. This you should have asked in the beginning. Then there was a possibility.’”

It is the easiest thing to put all blame on others. It is easy to criticize, to find faults in others. To criticize yourself, however, is the most difficult thing.

Self-criticism is what we are all afraid of. We are so afraid to look in the mirror and see our own reflection. Because if we do so, we might find that, after all, we are not perfect. We will come to face the dark side of ourselves.

By trying to change the world, the world is not going to change. The world will change only when we embody the change that we want to see in the world.

Story credit: Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing, by Osho

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