33. Don’t bring things to a painful point.
We all have lots of faults, and it is easy to get caught up in dwelling on them. It is easy to see all the things that are wrong about everyone and everything else as well. We may feel that we are doing somebody a favor by pointing out to them where they fall short, convincing ourselves that we are only doing so for their own benefit. But focusing on people’s most vulnerable areas, their most painful points, can undermine their confidence and their ability to go forward. Likewise, focusing on our own faults can be equally discouraging.
What happens with this focus on the negative is that our critical attitude becomes so entrenched that we can only see what is wrong, and we become blind to what is right. By critiquing other people, we may feel good about ourselves in comparison. But in order to keep feeling good, we need to keep finding new targets for our faultfinding, in order to shore ourselves up. Deep down we do not trust ourselves, so we need to keep convincing ourselves in this way.
According to this slogan, instead of pouncing on people’s weaknesses and vulnerabilites, we should be providing encouragement and support for their strengths. That is what we should notice and point out, not just what is wrong. The idea is that it is more skillful to encourage positive qualities than to criticize what is negative. With this approach, we are not using others to heighten our own confidence nor are we undermining other people’s confidence by reminding them of their inadequacies.
Notice the quality of faultfinding, which can take place on a light level or on a more going-for-the-jugular scale. When you find yourself caught in this pattern, notice your motivation. When you have difficulty with a person, can you see beyond their faults? Can you find a positive potential to build on, even if it seems small?