Do not consider the faults of others
Or what they have or haven’t done.
What you yourself have or haven’t done.
Dhammapada v. 50, translated by Gil Fronsdal
It is so much easier to see the flaws of others than to see our own. In the bible it says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, with never a thought for the great plank in your own?” [Matthew 7:3]
There is a human tendency to look outside of ourselves for what’s wrong, when most of our troubles are self-generated. The persistent unwholesome roots within each of us that the Buddha talked about – greed, hatred and delusion – are the cause of our unhappiness. In their various forms, these roots cloud our views and entice us to untruthfulness, self-indulgence, harming others and being stingy.
Counterbalancing, we also have the three wholesome roots: non-greed or generosity, non-hatred or love/acceptance, and clarity or wisdom. These roots lead us to perform actions that are harmless, generous and based on truthfulness.
Our job is to look to our actions and see clearly what is motivating them. It’s just as important to recognize our wholesome actions as our unwholesome ones. What have we done or not done today? Did we fulfill our commitments? Did we speak truthfully and gently? Did we listen? How about this week, this month, this year? The end of one year and the beginning of the next is as good a time as any to reflect.
The observation itself shines a light on the results of our words and deeds and makes us (over time) more careful.