One of the absolute greatest challenges we face on the path towards mastery of Self is the sheer difficulty of self reflection. To see the world clearly is already arduous enough, but to be able to see oneself without error is another thing entirely. However, there is a way that we may clear our self reflection- the mirror of the Other.
A person who has not yet begun to practice the art of self reflection lacks any awareness of the negative qualities that they surely possess. You can observe this most easily when an individual acts in blatant hypocrisy- when the deeds do not match the words.
Consider those you have certainly met who claim to despise any sort of drama in their social lives, yet inexplicably find themselves engaged in a new spat or dispute each week. Your first response may be to think that they are simply lying, but it’s more complex than that- they genuinely lack the awareness of their own role in the cycle of conflict. In the same way that it is painfully obvious to you, the observer, yet completely hidden from the person in question- so is the difficulty for you to self reflect clearly.
You may think, “no, not me- I’m not like those fools, I see clearly,” but such is the snare of deceit. Your assumption that you are above such ignorance is the very beam in your eye that prevents you from seeing. This is denial, and denial is the surest path away from the Truth.
When you are to make an assumption, first assume your own fallibility. Now, this is not meant to mean that you are fundamentally flawed, or that you are not capable of reason. What this means is that before you enter the temple, first you must purify yourself- before you would reach Truth, first you must purge yourself of falsehood.
Often, the easiest way to determine what personal realities we are in denial of is to see what flaws we find most heinous in others. An insecure person will writhe at the sight of a confident person, believing their behavior to be arrogance. This is very dangerous, because the same behavior the insecure demonizes is the exact behavior that must be learned to gain security. The weak willed person will rationalize their inability to get what they want as being polite or accommodating, rather than see that their fear of conflict is preventing them from asserting themselves.
Among the hardest of all emotions to recognize is envy- it is almost guaranteed that one who is envious to the point of malice will never be able to acknowledge its presence. Envy is perhaps the surest signifier of personal weakness- the coward covets what the strong man has, but cannot admit that he wants it, so he seeks to destroy rather than acknowledge his inadequacy. The tragedy of envy is that it is the acknowledgement that one admires another that frees the individual to improve themselves- we will not seek to imitate the (successful) behaviors of one that we have chosen to despise.
When you find yourself more than slightly agitated with the behavior of another, you are presented with the opportunity for self reflection- ask, “why did this action cause me to be so disturbed?” Our concept of the Other is fundamentally rooted in our understanding of our own selves-
If you do not know your Self, you cannot hope to know anyone else. The personal struggles we have met, the passions we have overcome, and the weaknesses we have conquered are all things that we are able to see in others- if you have not grown, what right do you have to instruct any other? One who has been depressed can see it on the face and in the manners of the depressed, just as one who has been resentful can spot resentment with ease. As some say, like attracts like, and this is likely why that is the case.
We are all, at our core, mirrors. Most have no polish, and as a result, will distort the views of those who gaze. If you were to attempt to determine how you appear to another, but that person is filled with denial and evasions, then your ability to see your reflection through their behavior will be hampered, and you will learn more about them than about yourself.
What we should strive to be, then, in our relationships with others, is a perfect mirror- polished, smoothed, and free of distortion. This is the nature of the strong man- he shows us simply what we are capable of, should we accept the responsibility of becoming it. This is also the exact reason why the weak cannot stand to see the strong- the perfect mirror does not lie, and it shows all things unpleasant to the eye without denial. Trust no man who would wish to see the hero fall- for whatever he says, he wishes only to avoid seeing himself. Trust no man who would tear down the statues of the great- for he wishes only to destroy greatness itself.
That you would be great- seek the mirror of excellence, and let it show you the truth of all your failings. It is only when we acknowledge those ways in which we have fallen that we may have any hope of rising again. That you would be true- become the perfect mirror, let your Self reflect the Other and those who look will be better simply for having seen you. That you would be strong- do not hide from your reflection.