fault-finding

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It's easy to find fault in things--far too easy for most of us.  Somehow, the flaws are far more easy to see than the bigger picture, than the amount of work and thought and preparation have gone into a particular piece of work.  Think about it--if someone just painted his or her house and missed a spot, what's the first thing we see?  If someone just cooked us dinner and used a bit too much salt, what's the first thing we notice when we put the food into our mouths?

And if we do notice the bare spot on the house, aren't we doing the person a favor by pointing it out?  And if the food's too salty we may not be able to eat it, so we'll definitely need to explain why.

Many of us carry this tendency to extremes, though.  Many people feel that they need to tell everyone about every little fault that they find in every situation.  They feel that they're doing people favors by pointing out what they see as flaws and problems, even though they may not be in a position in which people expect them to find mistakes.  And when they do so, they risk hurting people greatly.

When a kid shows us a piece of artwork, for example, does it truly matter if the flower is taller than the tree?  What possible purpose can it serve to point out what we see as a flaw when the picture already is finished?  We really need to consider the effect of the criticism on the artist before we look for the problems.  Is encouragement called for, or evaluation?  

We don't have to be teaching at every moment of our lives--we don't have to be finding things that need to be "fixed" all the time.

As a college English teacher, I find that very few people other than my students ever want me to read stuff that they write.  There's a very simple reason for this, too--in their experience, they've found that English teachers look for the flaws and point them out, and they simply don't want to put themselves up for that kind of criticism.  I learned this early and I don't point out things like misspellings or grammatical errors unless someone wants me to do so, but that doesn't usually help--once someone finds out what I do for a living, they want to avoid having someone else find fault in their work.

When we find fault in something that someone else has done, we're very often adding a negative element to our relationship with that person.  We're defining limits of trust and sharing--if I know that someone is going to find fault with everything that I do, I will not share with that person unless I'm truly seeking criticism.  As fewer people are willing to share with us, we lose much of the richness that comes from and through that sharing, and we become more isolated, less integrated.  The loss of the sharing of others is one of the greatest losses we can cause ourselves, and it may even reach a point at which people just don't want to be around us at all.

There are, of course, times when fault-finding is appropriate.  If a movie is simply awful, there's nothing wrong with saying so.  After all, movies have been put out in the public eye, and criticism is expected.  But if we take it too far and find things to criticize in every movie we see, we may find people trying to avoid us in the future.  If a song is just awful, what's wrong with saying so?  We just have to be careful not to alienate friends or loved ones who might like the song.

Fault-finding and criticizing, no matter what our intentions, tend to drive wedges between us and other people.  A person who finds fault in everything is a person to be avoided, when all is said and done, and who among us wants other people to avoid us whenever they can?

   
My days of whining and complaining about others have come to an end.
Nothing is easier than fault-finding.  All it will do is discolor my personality
so that none will want to associate with me.  That was my old life.  No more.

Og Mandino
  

It requires no thought, no consideration, no character, no talent to be a
fault-finder. . . . It is much easier to find fault than to find ways to help.
How easy to be critical and how hard to be correct.  How easy to find
fault with others and how hard to mend our own ways.

Fred Van Amburgh

  


  

They have great tranquility of heart who care neither
for the praises nor the fault-finding of people.

Honoré de Balzac

   

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The learner always begins by finding fault,
but the scholar sees the positive merit in everything.

Georg Wilhelm Hegel
   

The faults of others we see easily; our own are very difficult to see.
Our neighbor's faults we winnow eagerly, as chaff from grain;
our own we hide away.

Dhammapada

   

When you are offended at any person's fault, turn to yourself
and study your own failings.  Then you will forget your anger.

Epictetus

  
  

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Another reason why we do not regard others as precious is that we pay attention to their faults whilst ignoring their good qualities.  Unfortunately we have become very skilled in recognizing the faults of others, and we devote a great deal of mental energy to listing them, analyzing them, and even meditating on them!  With this critical attitude, if we disagree with our partner or colleagues about something, instead of trying to understand their point of view we repeatedly think of many reasons why we are right and they are wrong.  By focusing exclusively on their faults and limitations we become angry and resentful, and rather than cherishing them we develop the wish to harm or discredit them.  In this way small disagreements can easily turn into conflicts that simmer for months.

unattributed
  

Do not look for faults in others,
but look for faults in yourself,
and purge them like bad blood.

Advice from Atisha's Heart

   
 
We communicate happiness to others not often by great acts
of devotion and self-sacrifice, but by the absence of fault-finding
and censure, by being ready to sympathize with their notions
and feelings, instead of forcing them to sympathize with ours.

Adam Clarke
   

Never allow anyone to rain on your parade and thus cast a pall
of gloom and defeat on the entire day.  Remember that no talent,
no self-denial, no brains, no character, are required to set up
in the fault-finding business.  Nothing external can have any power
over you unless you permit it.  Your time is too precious to be
sacrificed in wasted days combating the menial
forces of hate, jealously, and envy.

Og Mandino

  

You show respect for other people's opinions
by never telling them they are wrong.

unattributed 

   
   
Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me.  What has this habit been doing to me?  The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding-- this was my reward to you for being a boy.  It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth.  I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character.  The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills.  This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night.  Nothing else matters tonight, son.  I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed.

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours.  But tomorrow I will be a real daddy!  I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh.  I will bite my tongue when impatient words come.  I will keep saying as if it were a ritual:  "He is nothing but a boy--a little boy!"

W. Livingston Larned
from "Father Forgets"
   




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Whoever is aware of their own failings will not find
fault with the failings of other people.

James Ross
  

Love in the making sees faults; love in the fulfillment sees none.  Seeing
faults is like cutting love into pieces, murdering love.

Papa Ramdas

  

So long as we are full of self we are shocked at the faults of others.  Let
us think often of our own sin, and we shall be lenient to the sins of others.

Francois Fenelon

  
  

  

   

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