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Chapter 23. Identifying One's Flaws

Know that the self is loved and the flaws of the beloved might not be apparent to the lover. How­ever, some people are so resolute in their struggle against
themselves that they consider their selves as their enemy in opposing it, and so they are able to see its flaws.

Iyas ibn Muawiyah said, "He who does not know his own demerits is a fool!" He was asked, "So what are yours?" He answered, "Excessive talking." However this is very rare, because people usually hide their own flaws, but we do not mean that a person does not know of his flaws, for a person of sound mind recognizes his flaws, I rather mean the concealed flaws. For they are like internal diseases that a doctor does not know of, and so cannot prescribe a medicine for, because they do not have symptoms. Also a person's love for himself prevents him from viewing his hidden flaws as flaws.

A poet said:

The eye that looks with contentment does not see flaws,
But the eye that is full of discontent sees all flaws

It was narrated that a man accompanied another and when he wanted to leave him he said, "Tell me about my flaws." The man answered, "Ask anyone other than me for I have been conceiving you with the eye of contentment."

If someone asks if flaws are concealed and a person does not regard them as flaws, then how can we identify them? The answer is that there are seven methods to overcome this:

  • The first method: A person should take the wisest, most prudent of all the people he knows as a friend, ask him to tell him about his flaws and inform him that in doing so he does him a favor.Then, when this friend tells him about them he should rejoice in that, and should not show any sadness, so as not to encourage  his friend to stop telling him about them. He should inform his friend, "If you hide anything from me I will consider you a cheater."
  • The second method: He should search for what his neighbours, brothers, the people he deals with, to inform  him about him, what they praise him for and dispraise him for.
  • The third method: He should find what his enemies say about him, for an enemy always tries to find the flaws of his enemy. Taking this point into consideration, a person will be able to benefit from his enemy in a way that he cannot benefit from his friend, and that is because an enemy mentions one's flaws but a friend hides them. Thereafter a person will avoid those flaws.
  • The fourth method: He should imagine that someone else has his characters, then he should choose what he likes of those characters and leave the objectionable ones.
  • The fifth method: He should reflect on the consequences and fruits of his different characteristics so that he comes to know the good that results from the good characters, and the bad that results from the objectionable ones. That is due to the fact that honest reflection is both very powerful and insightful.
  • The sixth method: To measure all his deeds by the Shariah, have them reviewed by insightful persons, measure them in the scale of justice, for it can distinguish between what is better and what is worse.
  • The seventh method: He should read the stories of those who acted upon their knowledge and then measure his actions against their actions, thus he would even regard the effects of a shortcoming as a flaw that he should avoid, let alone the performance of a bad deed.