The Pig and the Mirror
Quick post today. More of a reminder than anything.
Much (most?) of the time, most people trend toward black and white thinking on things. This extends to all manner of thinking:
- "This is good, this is bad."
- "This is my fault, that is his fault."
- "I am right about this and other people are wrong."
- "Other people are right about this and I am wrong."
The last two are what I want to talk about briefly today.
And I want to talk about them by way of sharing with you a Chinese parable I heard a bit back.
The Pig and the Mirror
A fly was buzzing about the pen of a pig one day, minding his own business, when he noticed the pig trotting about in the pen, his face filthy, completely unaware that he had so much dirt and grime on his face.
"Friend pig!" called out the fly. "Why do you not clean your face?"
"Clean it of what?" said the pig. "The way my eyes are positioned, I cannot see my face, so cannot know whether it needs cleaning or not, and if so, where!"
"I will see if I can help you," said the fly. He sped off through the air, searching about the farm for something that could help the pig to see his reflection, until he came across a mirror. Picking up the mirror, the fly returned to the pig's enclosure and placed the mirror against the side of the pen, where the pig could see it.
"Oh my!" the pig said looking at his reflection. "My face is quite filthy, isn't it?"
And with that, the pig set about rubbing and pawing and scrubbing his dirty face until it was sparkling clean.
Each day thereafter, the pig would walk up to the mirror, check his reflection, and clean off any dirt. Each day he'd make sure his face was perfectly clean.
Then one day, the fly came back. Buzzing about the pen, he inadvertently flung a speck of dirt off of a piece of food he picked up, and the dirt landed right on the mirror.
The pig soon walked up to the mirror and, seeing a big gob of dirt on his reflection, began to rub at the spot on his face, trying to remove the dirt. But the dirt would not go away, no matter how much he rubbed. He stayed there rubbing and rubbing for a good long while, trying to get rid of the gob of dirt, but being unable to do so.
Eventually the fly noticed this, and swooped down to talk to the pig again. "Friend pig!" he said. "Now what are you doing?"
"I cannot clean my face of this dirt speck!" the pig replied.
"My friend, don't be silly," said the fly, "the speck of dirt is on the mirror, not your face."
Are You the Problem... Or Not?
In the article on victim mentality, Flames made the following remark:
“I think you can go too far the other way too though and blame yourself for things outside your control.”
... and I believe that's one worth addressing as well.
If you're accustomed to seeing yourself as the blameless victim, then you absolutely need to take some time to teach yourself to view the role you play in everything that happens to you in your life.
It's your life; you bring the things in it into it, and you generate the reactions in other people you generate. Your life is the inevitable result of you and your actions.
At the same time, I think it's worth keeping in perspective the moral of the story of the pig and the mirror: much of the time, when you're gauging others' reactions, you're seeing something that reflects on you, and lets you know where your shortcomings are and what you need to correct (and where your strengths are, and what you're doing great at).
However, sometimes the reflection is marred by dirt on the mirror, not on you.
Sometimes it really isn't you; sometimes it really is the other person who has the problem.
Telling the Difference
This one's easy.
If you look in every mirror and see dirt in the same place, that dirt is there.
If you look in one mirror and see the dirt there, but every other mirror you look in doesn't show you that dirt, the problem - at least for that speck of dirt - is with the mirror, not you.
So when you're trying to figure out what you're doing wrong, and what you need to correct, make sure you're examining the reactions and results you get from multiple different people.
Early on, I realized that every young (~22 and under at the time; I was 23) girl who seemed to like me would quickly lose interest anytime I'd start talking about myself. So I decided the problem was probably me, not every single young girl I met, and I decided to talk about myself as little as possible. Voila, I started taking girls under 22 to bed much more easily with a lot less hassle.
But, also early on, I had crazy things happen, like a girl who thought I was trying to ditch her with a bill come storming after me and chew me out (I really was just going to the bathroom), or a random girl on the street I'd never seen before or spoken to (and who was actually quite pretty) come up and kick me in the groin and start punching me in the head.
Because these things did not repeat with other women (thank God), I pretty safely just assumed that these were isolated incidents where the dirt was on the mirror.
There were still lessons to be learned from them - the girl who came storming after me had picked up that I wasn't all that interested in her, and probably was rather insecure and maybe had even been ditched with the bill herself before (or, more likely, had ditched men with the bill and feared having it done back to her); the girl who attacked me... well, there really wasn't anything to learn from that other than if you see a pretty, short white girl alone at 3 o'clock in the morning walking down a sidewalk lined on both sides for blocks with hordes of large black men in loose clothing hooting and hollering and catcalling at every passing woman who goes by, there's probably something unusual going on with her that night.
Moral of the Story
The Chinese parable's moral is, "The mirror can show you what's wrong with you, or what's wrong with it."
I think the moral we want to take away though is this: "Make sure you check more than one mirror."
It's easy to blame yourself for everything, or blame others for everything.
What's harder is to blame yourself for many things, while also recognizing that some things really aren't your fault much or at all.
Remember to check multiple mirrors any time you're even faintly unsure, and that lack of clarity will quickly disappear.
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