We all get caught up in it. It’s a tendency that begins in our early childhood. It’s almost a spontaneous reaction. When someone points out our mistake, we react and respond by deflecting it onto someone or something else. A child's reaction is a sweet and obvious example of this tendency, but adults, too, can become sophisticated deflectors. The underlying defense mechanism, however, is exactly the same and it can stay with us until we die - in fact, we can even carry it into the next life.
So, why do we so often deny and deflect responsibility?
1. The ego has a very hard time accepting that it has committed a mistake.
2. It’s painful to look at one's own mistakes.
3. We think that acknowledging our errors might diminish our image.
It’s almost as if we’ve been programmed to look away from ourselves and look for the fault elsewhere. The Bhagavad Gita informs us that the soul is “eternal, unborn, unaffected by fire, water, or air, and indestructible.” The Puranas (histories) tell us that the soul, while in the spiritual realm is pure, but that when it enters the material realm and inhabits a material form (human or animal), it become contaminated by envy, pride, greed, and anger. It begins to think itself as being better than others and competes to become the center of attention. Having adopted this consciousness, it has a very difficult time acknowledging its own shortcomings. In some cases, it will go to extreme measures to preserve its reputation.
We should humbly acknowledge that we share at least part of the blame for whatever went wrong. The ego will try hard to defend itself, but we can’t let it win. Letting it convince us that we did nothing wrong prevents us from growing. The acknowledgement of the blame doesn’t have to be public, but at least to ones self or to a friend we trust. If we can’t learn to see our imperfections, then we will die thinking there was nothing wrong with us. The ego might feel victorious, but in truth, many opportunities for growth are lost.
It’s important to recognize that our senses are limited and imperfect. Therefore, “to err is human.” We should know that to admit one's faults takes much more courage than denying them. If we hope to mature as human beings and transcend the cycle of birth and death, as described by the Bhagavad Gita and other spiritual texts, we need to be able to respond to blame in the appropriate manner – with deep honesty and humility.
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Gadadhara Pandit currently serves as a lecturer and the first-ever Hindu chaplain of Columbia University, New York University, and Union Theological Seminary. He teaches courses on the the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu texts combining their messages with popular Hollywood movies. He leads workshops on mantra meditation and delivers lectures at the nation's leading universities and yoga studios. Pandit spoke at a recent TEDx conference and was featured in the NPR piece “Long Days and Short Nights of a Hindu Monk.” He has also appeared in a PBS documentary on the Bhagavad Gita, as well as The New York Times. His life is chronicled in his autobiography: Urban Monk: Exploring Karma, Consciousness, and the Divine. For more from Pandit, check out his website at nycpandit.com.[ false-ego ] [ faultfinding ] [ honesty ]