What You Criticize In Others Is What You Don’t Like In Yourself

“Just as much as we see in others we have in ourselves.”

–William Hazlitt

Ever get irritated by someone acting out to get attention? Ever get annoyed when an acquaintance is arrogant? Ever feel prickly around a person who is being generous to show how righteous they are? Ever become infuriated with a government official for wasteful spending?

A chance to help? Or a chance to get attention?

It may very well be that you aren’t really angry at that person. You may be angry at yourself.

We all have a ranking system of personal behaviors – from noble to obscene. I’ll venture a guess that we all think about every behavior on that scale, associating ourself with the noble behaviors and distancing ourselves from the obscene. Further, I’ll guess that from time to time we act (or have acted) in ways that we find offensive. And we don’t like it one bit.

If we don’t like in ourselves, we most certainly don’t like it in others. The more offensive the behavior to us, the more offensive it is when we see it. What we may be seeing is a reflection of ourselves.

What does this have to do with the theme of this blog – giving time?

When we give time there is a part of us that struggles with the thought that maybe we’re being generous only because we earn appreciation, recognition, attention, and self-gratitude. That is in direct conflict with the genuine desire to help other people.

Cleaned thoroughly. But was it for my wife? myself? or my project?

Therefore, when we see someone else being generous and giving, there’s probably a part of us that is repelled by that. “She’s showing off!” “He’s hypocritical.” “She’s self-righteous!” “He’s hiding something!”

I struggled with that as I cleaned the laundry room tonight. I projected several voices in my head as I cleaned, each asking. “Who was I cleaning for?” My wife? Myself? My project?

It was probably all three. Those are normal thoughts and there’s nothing arrogant about trying to help others. Many of my fellow kindness bloggers have struggled with this paradox and essentially answered the question by saying that being kind is both for themselves as well as others.

It’s a tough question, and I certainly don’t have the answer. But here are two things I do know,

  • If you are uncomfortable with someone else being generous, kind or serving other people, it’s possible you’re just uncomfortable with that part of yourself.
  • Everyday that you deliberately and intentionally help another person is a day that you think less about yourself, and more about other people – and that changes you. Dramatically.

Those ideas aren’t original, but I can attest to their authenticity from my giving time project.

The other thing I can attest to? We have a clean laundry room.

Yesterday’s gift of time … Cleaned the laundry room, and even folded the socks in the sock basket so my wife wouldn’t have to. Or, did I do it so I’d get recognition? Or, so I’d have more clean socks? 

Special thanks to my friend Daljit who shared this idea with me today.

About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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8 Responses to What You Criticize In Others Is What You Don’t Like In Yourself

  1. great points eric, and i totally think there are many reasons behind how we act or react. that is a spic and span laundry room, which i’m sure your wife appreciated and you felt good doing. i also enjoy doing things like this, especially when it’s tangible…like seeing the before and after picture 🙂

  2. Such helpful questions and reflections…I sometimes tumble around with figuring out what my motivations might be… ah ha…of course, a laundry post! ….tumbling???? ; )

    • Eric Winger says:

      A bit of … dry … humor, eh?! 🙂

      Yes, understanding our motivations, especially when we criticize others is helpful to know ourselves better.

      Thanks for the comment,


  3. ddtt2@yahoo.com says:

    Interesting commentary, Eric. Obviously, the best way to approach something like house clutter is to achieve consensus with others, but sometimes you GET to do what you do, right?

    Best wishes to you on the Fourth of July.

    • Eric Winger says:

      We spend a lot of our day doing and choosing what we want. My purpose with this blog is to shine the light on how we use our time, and how using a little of that time to help someone else can bring real changes in ourselves and the way we think about others.

      Thanks for the comment! (And a Happy Independence Day to you, too!)


  4. Anne Camille says:

    While I’m not an expert in it, I believe that this philosophy is very much in keeping with the Rule of St Benedict. The result being that when we examine that which we find negative in others. we need to look carefully for the same trait within ourselves. And that while there may be a bit of something in it for us (benefit or attention), the more we think that, the more we should look for a benefit in it for someone else.

    • Eric Winger says:

      St. Benedict was very wise, as are you Anne.

      What others “are” is mostly what we believe they “are”. Knowing that, it can give us pause on how we view that person.

      Thanks for the thoughts!


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