We have no idea what came over us, but we had a decidedly uncharacteristic bout of self-reflection the other day. Needless to say, it was profoundly disorienting. And it left us feeling a little queasy, a little humbled, but much less alone. Here’s why:
It turns out the mirror, whether literal or figurative, is therapeutic — if you keep your eyes open, that is. It also turns out some pretty heavy thinkers and some pretty surprising people have looked in the mirror, eyes wide open, and found better people in their reflections.
When I was a kid, I had a tendency to criticize. But when I did, my mum would whisk me off to the bathroom to stand in front of a mirror — ten minutes, never less — to think about how criticism is a poor reflection on the one who criticizes. (Richard Branson)
Our self-reflection led to some equally uncharacteristic insights. We realized, for example, that criticism is a form of projection. We realized that looking out — even if we believe we’re doing it with constructive, altruistic motives — is a hedge against looking in. And we realized the things right under our noses aren’t the hardest to see: The things behind our noses are the hardest and the most painful to see.
Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Most important, perhaps, we came to recognize that the importance of what we think and say is minuscule in comparison to the importance of what we do. Talk is cheap. Everyone does have an opinion. But not everyone has the courage or the conviction to act on or to behave according to what they’re all-too-ready to say. That’s why Thoreau was exactly right.
Time and reflection change the sight little by little ’till we come to understand. (Paul Cézanne)
We don’t want a medal for any of this. And we have a long way to go to be meaningful practitioners of this or anything else we might preach. Besides, we’ll never be mistaken for rocket surgeons for thinking about any of this stuff. Ya gotta know most if not all of it must be pretty self-evident when it starts showing up in pop songs:
I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his way. (Michael Jackson)
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