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The Key to Admitting Wrongs

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“I once asked someone, ‘Do you have any blind spots?’ He said, ‘Yes, but I know where they are.'” – Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Subjectivity blinds us. One way that it blinds us is that we often look for solutions to problems in the wrong places — we look where it is comfortable, where it does not pain us. Self-growth and the spiritual journey require integrity — honest introspection and accountability, even if it isn’t always pleasant. This includes admitting wrongs that we have done, and we can’t do that unless we are willing to endure the discomfort of being honest with ourselves.

Get help from an objective mentor.

The gift of an objective mentor, whether it is a spiritual teacher or a good friend, is to have someone who can offer unbiased advice not affected by your subjectivity, someone who can point out your blind spots. (Of course, the mentor has his own subjectivity, but regarding you he is not subjective). A mentor can look at your life — the patterns and choices you have made — and see it very differently than you do; with a clarity that you may not have. The hardest thing is to accept the advice of a mentor which challenges the way you see things. Who likes to believe and admit their blind spots or wrongs? Yet, that’s the whole point of integrity — being able to hear another person’s unprejudiced observation of your behavior and beliefs. But like a tender nerve, the closer a problem is to home, the more painful it gets, and the more resistance we will have in seeking help. Our shame and pride are additional factors that make acknowledging our wrongs particularly difficult.

When you are the objective mentor…

It’s impossible to force anyone to listen to you if they block themselves (intentionally or not) from hearing what you have to say. Often a person becomes more receptive when they, sadly, hit rock bottom or something traumatic shakes them up. One key to getting someone to acknowledge their shortcomings and mistakes is to find openings. Every one has a gate that opens to their heart. Words from the heart enter the heart. When you speak with love and non-judgmentalism, it is far easier to find that opening and reach into a person’s heart, in ways that he does not put up his guard and deploy his defense mechanisms. Initially, people might be very closed, but kindness ultimately opens up doors even when the person is blinded and hurt. The hurt person may kick and scream, but sincere warmth ends up opening channels. If not today, tomorrow. There is always an opening, but it can only be opened with love. Everybody can be reached with sensitive and effective empathy.

Go slowly. Be gentle with yourself.

It takes time and patience to allow yourself to hear an objective opinion that challenges your own, often longstanding, subjective self perception and blind spots. It never comes easy to acknowledge that you may have made mistakes in the past. So take it step by step, slowly acclimating yourself to the fresh perspective, in ways that you can absorb and internalize it. A sudden bout of self-criticism yields depression, anger, demoralization and feeling like a victim. You cannot see yourself as your own enemy; you cannot flagellate yourself. Always remember: Your identity is not defined by your mistakes and wrongs. You may have done something wrong (and who has not?), but that doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. Your identity is defined by your accountability and what you do to correct a wrong. When you are ready to admit wrongs, simply face the objective reality of the choices you have made. There is no reason to hate yourself — hating yourself will not help you grow. The key to healthy self-development is to nurture what is good inside yourself. Yes, you start by admitting your wrongs. But then, more importantly, you put your wrongs to rest as you bring out your pure, healthy essence.

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Go deeper into this subject: MyLife: Chassidus Applied Episode 45, Respectful Honesty, Even When It Hurts, What to Do When You Make a Mistake

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