Watch Where You Point That Finger

There is a saying that when you point a finger in blame at another person, you have three fingers pointing back at yourself.

The recent hoopla surrounding the bailout of the Detroit Big Three reminded me of this saying. It is obvious that the bailout is hugely unpopular, and there is understandably a lot of anger being directed at the management of these car companies for the many, many poor decisions they have made over the years that have contributed to their current state. But are they solely to blame? I think not.

The sad truth is that the car companies have been producing big stupid gas guzzling super-trucks for a good reason – people have been buying them! And the reason people have been able to afford these gas guzzlers is because of the low taxes on gasoline in the US compared to the rest of the world. Why are taxes so low? Because there would be an uproar if politicians tried to increase them!

The Blame Game

I mention the bailout because I think it is a good example of how people can simultaneously point a finger in blame at others while being in denial of their own actions. Now, you may drive a fuel efficient car (or perhaps you don’t even drive) and you may be perfectly happy to see taxes on gas rise for the greater good. But even if this example doesn’t apply to you, the fact is most of us have on some occasion been guilty of hypocrisy when pointing out flaws in others.

I know I have. I get annoyed at other people’s laziness, but I’m often very lazy myself. I shake my head when I see the latest politician get caught in an ethics scandal, but I also know I have had a few lapses in judgement over the years. Of course such hypocrisy sounds silly when I throw a spotlight on it, but the fact is it is very easy to go through life unaware of our thoughts and actions. That is, we fail to “know thyself”.

Self-Knowledge

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung

Carl Jung, the influential Swiss psychologist, believed that each of us possesses a shadow that is prone to project, whereby a personal inferiority is turned into a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. Jung said these projections both insulated and crippled individuals by forming a thick fog of illusion between the ego and the real world.

This article is not necessarily saying we shouldn’t blame others when they do something wrong. Rather, I would simply like you to see blame as an opportunity for greater self-knowledge. When we get irritated, when we get angry, when we feel the need to point to flaws in others….. all these feelings can be valuable clues that can lead to a greater understanding of ourselves.

Most of us have a few things we would like to change about our life. But it seems to me that very often areas of our life that would be of most benefit to change stay covered by that thick fog of illusion Jung referred to. I think it’s relatively easy to admit you’re overweight or that you’re lazy; I know I hear these gripes quite often and it perhaps partly explains the huge interest in productivity and “life hacks”. But what about admitting that you are selfish? Or that you are mean? Or lacking in ethics? These are not nice character traits, and I think it takes a lot of courage to stand in front of the mirror and admit these things about ourselves.

Final Thoughts

The next time you feel the need to point your finger in blame –  whether it be at the car manufacturers in Detroit, your partner, your parents or the latest in a long line of crooked politicians – make a point of being aware how you feel. Realize three fingers are pointing back at yourself, and then answer the question:

“Is there a chance I’m projecting something I don’t like about myself onto someone else?”

Admittedly this is not an easy question to answer as it may reveal side of yourself you would rather not face. But what’s the alternative? A thick fog of illusion? My suggestion: take the red pill. Once you begin to search for the truth, you open the door to change in your life.

What are your thoughts? I would be interested to hear them in the comments below.

Peter Clemens

Peter Clemens is founder of The Change Blog and author of The Possibility of Change books series. Click here to learn more about Peter and his books.

9 Comments

  1. Good points made here – what you’re basically talking about is getting up the courage to do an honest introspection and look at the mirror. Become more conscious of our actions, thoughts, words and deeds.

    Ever since I significantly changed my diet from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to eating plant-based foods (also called raw foods), I’ve been busy cleaning inside my mind, body and spirit and becoming aware of my thoughts, actions, words, etc.

    I’e embraced more than ever the notion that we are 100 percent responsible for our lives. Once we adopt that philosophy, we no longer need to point fingers away from ourselves, which is very empowering.

    Reply
  2. That’s right Stephen. I think it is easy to see the problems of the world as being “out there” with everyone else. But if we have the courage to do some honest introspection I think each of us will find certain things that we can improve about ourselves.

    I’m curious about this raw food diet. I assume you have been writing about it on your blog? I might just have to go have a poke around on your site (Adversity University for anyone unfamiliar with Stephen’s blog).

    Reply
  3. That would be wonderful – to see you there. I even created a category called Raw Food Journey. Yes, I’ve been writing a lot about it complete with pictures and accounts of my experiences along the way. It’s been a most amazing journey and I’m grateful for it. It’s led me to the creation of my first-ever online business who I’m always seeking entrepreneurial minded people to work with and preparing for the next step, whatever that might be.

    2009 is going to be a rather very interesting year. I will be 49, almost 50, can you believe it? Yet I look and feel at least 10 to 20 years younger. When I tell people my age, they’re almost always shocked (I always thought the lack of hair on my head gave away my age but apparently not!).

    In any case, I enjoy reading your words of wisdom. Every now and then you hit me squarely between the eyes that inspires me to leave a comment like I did today. I continue to be grateful for your presence on the Internet in the world of blogging.

    Reply
  4. Here is an interesting example I found on Genius Types that relates to this article:

    I went to see Kiyosaki once at the Real Estate Wealth Expo in New York City. It was an event where hundreds of real estate gurus all got together to give speeches, sell books, CD’s, and boot camps. Robert was one of the headliners and I could hardly contain my excitement to see him.

    With my girlfriend at my side, I proudly stood up to greet him along with hundreds of others in the auditorium as he entered the stage. My perma-grin turned to puzzlement as he put his right hand on his forehead in the shape of an “L”. “Losers!” he yelled and the crowd cheered.

    “What is he talking about?” my girlfriend asked. I wasn’t sure, so I continued to listen as he explained to the crowd that working a 9 to 5 job was the mark of a loser. Over and over again, he stuck his hand to his forehead and repeated the chant: “Loser!, Loser!, Loser!”

    Wait a minute, I thought. I bet 95% of this audience has a 9 to 5 job… and they’re cheering.

    Reply
    • That’s a great post Jean. I left a comment on your blog :)

      Reply
  5. Hi

    Good post.

    Yes, realising the not-so-nice aspects about oneself is, well, not at all pleasant.
    The thing is, we swing between the “good” and the “bad”. Both are actually always there, it’s just a matter of which one is visible.

    Say one is feeling that somebody else is being selfish. How long does it take before one behaves selfishly towards that other person? We tend not to stay giving and accepting for ever. Even just turning away from them for good, could be an act of selfishness on our part.

    Juliet

    Reply
  6. It is amazingly difficult to be honest with ourselves. The idea that what we blame others for is a projection of our own deficiencies can be shocking and truly difficult to entertain. It takes a special individual to do so – real change is very possible, but rare.

    Reply
  7. I think being responsible is cool. There’s a time to point the finger at yourself and there’s a time to help others see. Thanks for the good read

    Reply

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