We are blind to our own faults.
Understand and be absolutely clear that we can unearth a lot of these faults by scraping a few layers of pretense.
Even when we are aware of our faults, we are still very stubborn in denying these vices -
- When a physician tells us that we have a deficiency of nutrients and we should take some supplements, we are fine with it, we go so far as to thank the physician.
- But if a philosopher tells us that our soul is deficient, we get offended and we are ready to strike.
- Is it impossible for our souls to be ailing? If not, why is it shameful to admit it?
- It is our inherent tendency to blame our troubles on our circumstances, on others, on places, on the times we live in or other external factor. whereas, in fact, the flaws are within us.
“It’s not that I am ambitious; this is just how one has to live at Rome. It’s not that I overspend; it’s just that city living demands certain expenditures.
It’s not my fault that I am prone to anger, that I do not yet have any settled plan of life—this is just what a young person does.” - Seneca
"Our trouble is not external to us: it is within, right down in the vital organs" - Seneca
Understand that we do not want to underestimate ourselves. But we should not overestimate either.
Come to term with the fact that we naturally overestimate ourselves and underestimate other. Stop succumbing to this blindness.
".. to rate oneself too high and to rate others too low." - Michel Montaigne
Constructively criticize others truly and only when it is for their benefit. Don't blame others for your faults and expect any benefit for yourself in return!
We should judge ourselves right. We should practice getting it right, cause no one else can see within us and set us on the right path.
We should not despair as it is not abnormal to have vices. Vices are natural but harmful to us.
"No one acquires an excellent mind without first having a bad one. All of us have been taken over already, and to learn virtue is to unlearn one’s faults" - Seneca
Realize that it will take you a while to get rid of your faults, but it won't just go away by chance! We have to devote time for it and turn to philosophy.
We should try our best not to let the our faults get ingrained. We should learn to self-criticize when we are young.
But even when these vices are ingrained , do not despair -
" Oaken beams can be straightened, no matter how warped they are; crooked tree trunks are unbent by heat, and altered from their native form to whatever shape we require. How much easier is it for the mind, a thing suppler and more yielding than any liquid, to assume a new form?" - Seneca
The first step is to accept that we have flaws, to stop fooling ourselves.
The second step is to gain a will to self-correct these flaws. We can attain this will by realizing how much harm these flaws have caused us and our people. Understand and accept that you are capable of EXPONENTIAL change
The third and the most important step is to meditate on our faults everyday. We should write all our faults in a journal, honestly.
"Lucilius committed to paper his deeds and his thoughts and portrayed himself as he knew himself to be." - Michel Montaigne
Writing is a gateway to our souls, a direct line of communication.
Read the brutally honest, unwavering and harsh self criticism by Michel Montaigne in his essay On presumption in - Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics)
"I am most ignorant about myself. I marvel at the assurance and confidence everyone has about himself, whereas there is virtually nothing that I know that I know and which I would dare to guarantee to be able to perform. I do not have my capacities listed and classified; I only find out about them after the event, being full of doubt about myself as about everything else. The result is that if I happen to do a job in a praise-worthy fashion, I attribute that more to my good fortune than to my ability, especially since all my plans for it were made haphazardly and tentatively." - Michel Montaigne.
- Such brutal, but at the same time rational and balanced, honesty can only drive us in one direction - towards virtue.
These are notes from reading and quotes from the following books -
- Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics)
- Letters on Ethics: To Lucilius (The Complete Works of Lucius Annaeus Seneca)
Also read -