The art of window cleaning- See the specialities in the self and others

The art of window cleaning: See the specialities in the self and others

“The list of weaknesses is easy, but when it comes to strengths, almost all of us find it difficult to write even a few.” - Charles Hogg
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In every street, there is a Mrs. Judgement and a Mrs. Honesty. One day Mrs. Honesty decided to visit Mrs. Judgement. As soon as Mrs. Honesty arrived, Mrs. Judgement began to complain about her new neighbours, a family of foreigners.

“She is a terrible housekeeper,” said Mrs. Judgement, “you should see how dirty her children are… and as for her house!  It is almost a disgrace to be living in the same neighbourhood. Just take a look at the clothes she has hung on the line, see the black streaks on the sheets and towels.

Mrs. Honesty walked up to the window to look, “Actually the clothes are quite clean, my dear. The streaks are on your window!”

Like Mrs. Judgement, how often am I deceived by my own dirty windows into projecting my own ‘misjudgements’ externally, fully convinced that I am seeing the truth?  The original seed of misjudgement colours everything I see, so each interaction with my neighbours reinforces my attitude. Until a Mrs. Honesty arrives. Only then do I look closely at my eye-windows. As I begin the process of cleaning the dirt from the outside of my windows I notice something interesting. There is also dirt on the inside. The dirt outside is the product of external influences, atmospheres, opinions and attitudes. The inside dirt is of past experiences, perceptions and assumptions unconsciously colouring my vision.

Just stop for a minute, and reflect on the feelings of judgement and self-righteousness that arise in you, as in all of us. We are aware that these feelings leave us more separate, more isolated, more frightened. And yet within all of us we have the great voice of the critic or the judge. Everyone is on trial. Whether we verbalise our judgmental thoughts or keep them for our own private consumption, others do feel their effect. Reflect again on their opposite. Remember the feelings of forgiveness or understanding. Remember how you wish to be treated when you have made a mistake. Remember how you felt when you let go of someone’s past and offered them a fresh start. Just imagine the healing in relationships if I have the humility to let go of judgement.

My grandmother died a few years ago at the age of ninety-four. During her life she spent only one day in the hospital—at the age of ninety-two to have a cataract removed. She had a healthy, happy life and was loved by all. During one of my last visits, it occurred to me that much of her obvious contentment came from her ability to always tune into the good in others. They responded to her with the same feelings. In a natural way it created a life of giving and taking love. It seems there is a terrible price we pay for the eyes of judgement and criticism. We lose precious love from other hearts.

How do I feel when I see the specialities of others? I feel good about myself.  How do I feel when I see my own specialities? Even better. But is it easy? Many times I have taken part in workshops where all participants are asked to make a list of their positive qualities and also a list of weaknesses they would like to change. The list of weaknesses is easy, but when it comes to strengths, almost all of us find it difficult to write even a few. Can I say I really know myself? Often what we write down are talents and skills, what I do or what I have learned, rather than those character traits that are unique to me.

How do I discover my specialities?

Try an experiment. Close your eyes and gently drift beyond your body. Now through your mind’s eye look back at yourself. As an observer of the person sitting below what do you see? What are your specialities? Think deeply about your inner motives, how you treat others, the things you value most. A list of specialities will begin to grow. Don’t just leave them as one word. Expand on them so the depth of your specialities is revealed.

An interesting thing can happen as you go through this process. Perhaps a little guilt or embarrassment enters: “Am I deluding myself? Has my ego taken over?” Somehow we have created in-built barriers that do not allow us to enjoy self-appreciation. Common sense tells me, if I can’t see the specialities in myself it is almost impossible to see them in others. My in-built barrier emanates from a deep lack of self-worth that tells me that I have no value. Breaking through this barrier is at the heart of the spiritual process. As I set myself free from this inner paralysis, my own intrinsic goodness becomes naturally apparent. Not only do my strengths become apparent, but my vision on my weaknesses is one of compassion. I am freed from the jail of hopelessness. I can change!

By Charles Hogg

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