How can we know if someone is correcting out of ego or out of concern?
Transcription by Andreea Mataji
Question from Keshav Kashmiri Prabhu:
This a question based on the article ‘To grow individually and socially, look for the weakness in yourself and the goodness in others’.
Sometimes a person may find fault. At times it becomes difficult to judge a particular person as egoistic because he finds fault in others. Because some people may seem harshly externally and may find fault in others, but they might not do it because they are proud of their knowledge, but maybe may do it because they care for those, especially a guru may warn his/her disciples by finding some faults in it. But it helps for the spiritual growth of his disciples, preventing their downfall. How to draw a line between those two classes of people that you talked about and what I mention above?
Here, in the article, when I’m talking about ‘To grow individually and socially, look for the weakness in yourself and the goodness in others’, it is clear, by the direct reference to yourself, we are talking about seekers over here. We are not talking about advanced devotees.
Our attitudes should not be that we should correct others. We are in the early stages of our spiritual life right now and we shouldn’t assume that we have a licence to correct others in any way.
And even when we are in authoritative positions, when we have to guide others, we should assume that we have a tendency to fault find and we may do it in an insensitive way. That’s why being cautious is always safer. And by being cautious we will be able to ensure that we don’t hurt people more than necessary.
Now with respect to … about senior devotees, yes, it’s possible that some people may have a benevolent intention, but their action may seem malevolent. It may seem that they are criticising for the sake of criticising or because of ego or because of wanting to show off their knowledge or whatever. So with respect to our seniors, we should give them the benefit of doubt.
Those who are our guides and those whom we have observed over a period of time, with whom we have a good relationship and we know they are our well-wishers, so from them if we get corrections we should know that it is for our good and that they’re doing it without selfish intention. So if we already have a stable relationship with someone and we trust that person then receiving corrections from that person is good. That’s how we will improve. Certainly we all need to be corrected at some time or the other.
At the same time, while giving benefit of doubt to others, especially our spiritual guides, we should also know that we are sensitive. And if we see repetitive criticism from others that may discourage us so much that we may not be able to implement the corrections or even practice our basic devotional service enthusiastically.
So, we all need encouragement in our spiritual life and if we find that a particular authority’s way of speaking, a particular senior’s speaking is hurting us more than it is encouraging or guiding us, then we may have to take guidance from someone else.
Now, of course, we really can’t change our spiritual master, but the spiritual masters are also normally very careful. They will guide in a way that is encouraging to the disciples, so overall, at the end of the interaction between guru and the disciple or between a counsellor and a counselee, the end result is that the subordinate should feel enlivened to practice devotional service.
In exceptional situations, where the error is very great and if the subordinate is not even feeling any remorse for it, then there might have to be heavy chastisement. But those sort of occasions should be occasional and the correction should be given in a plus minus plus (+ – +) format: appreciate something, then point out some helpful correction, then appreciate overall.
So, we shouldn’t, especially when we have our trustworthy spiritual guides, who we know are our benefactors, we shouldn’t assume that they are they are being selfishly or egoistically motivated when they are correcting us. And recognizing our own weaknesses and knowing that they have far greater understanding, from them we can take these corrections gracefully and gratefully.
Thank you! Hare Krsna!