Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker’s weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and a guide to using its waters to reflect on and improve your life.
Photo by Franz Venhaus.
This week’s selection comes from my favourite stoic, Marcus Aurelius. He suggests you hold off on blaming people who make mistakes, especially if you’re not willing to guide them:
Here’s another translation:
What It Means
People make mistakes. When they do make a mistake, and you feel the need to point it out, at least do them the kindness of showing them how to avoid it next time. But if you point fingers and refuse to teach, the blame is on you. That’s your failure, not theirs, because you’re choosing to neglect an opportunity to do good. Of course, if you can’t help them learn, no one is to blame. The mistake they made could have easily been made by you.
What to Take From It
Blame is good for no one. It makes the blamed feel disheartened and unwilling to try again, it makes the blamer feel self-righteous and free of fault, and it cultivates a culture of blame shifting for everyone else. Its a selfish act of self-preservation designed to lower people’s opinions of someone else so that you might look better in comparison. In an environment where learning often comes with trial and error, which is most work environments, the feeling of failure is often punishment enough. There’s no need to point fingers and amplify it. Besides, when you work on a team, one person’s failure is everyone’s.
It’s still OK to point out someone’s missteps. After all, many people don’t even realise they’re making mistakes until someone does so, and they need to be told so they can get better. But if you’re going to highlight someone’s faults, you should be willing to show them how to avoid them in the future. Guidance helps them learn and encourages them to try again, and through teaching, you further your own understanding of the subject matter and solidify your position as a positive, useful member of the team. So don’t blame – teach. If you can’t teach because you are also learning, know your place and just worry about yourself.