The Ten Evils (Part Five)

This was originally one exceptionally long post. I chose to split it into five pieces for readability purposes. I’ll post a segment each day this week.

As mentioned previously, I was recently leafing through a book at the library discussing Japanese martial arts (I believe it was Budo Secrets) when I came upon a sidebar that listed the ten evils that prevent people from improving themselves.

As I read through the list, I couldn’t help but see how each of these evils – or character flaws, as I would perhaps describe them – have held me back in my finances, my career, and my life in different ways.

While thinking about these ten terms, I consulted a dictionary and spent some time reflecting on how each of these has held me back – and can hold you back, too.

(I decided to highlight these evils with some wonderful Creative Commons photographs that illustrate each of these traps.)

Here are the final two evils from that list. You can check out the first pair of evils, the second pair of evils, the third pair of evils, and the fourth pair of evils as well.

Red Light Camera Fine $324: Welcome to the Police State
Red Light Camera Fine $324: Welcome to the Police State, by Alex Proimos

Contempt
The feeling or attitude of regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless.

An alarming portion of society today seems to run on a concept of contempt for anything that’s different than themselves. Politics is filled with Republicans full of contempt for Democrats and vice versa. Visit the comment section of any popular site and you see tons of contempt for the writer of the article, the subject at hand, and often other commenters in that particularly useless combination of contempt mixed with anonymity.

Of course, there’s a reason that these cultural elements known so much for their contempt-filled behavior are seen with disdain by so many. Contempt is a deep and negative character flaw that drives people away. It only attracts the small sliver of people who happen to agree with you.

Even worse, contempt tends to drive further contempt. Once you consider it acceptable to view one person or group or item with contempt, it becomes ever easier to view another person or group or item or idea with contempt. And so it continues.

Contempt blinds you to the worth in the people, things, places, and ideas you have contempt for. Nothing is perfect, but if a flaw in one trait brings along contempt for the entire package, then you are only limiting yourself by discarding something (or a set of things) that has great value.

In opposition to contempt is respect. Respect does not mean belief that something is perfect. It merely means that you believe that something has value, flaws and all. Respect means holding back your negativity when it serves no real purpose. Respect means building relationships where both people have value rather than one person having contempt for the other.

You can build a respectful nature by holding back on your negative statements, even when they’re protected by a cloud of anonymity. Every negative statement you make breaks down the wall between the emotions in your head and the words and actions you take in the presence of others, even if anonymous. It fuels further negative emotions and makes it even easier to view others as contemptible and treat them in that fashion.

Instead, look for the positive value in everything you see. Snarkiness has almost no value. Neither does disrespect. They both seek solely to de-value things. Take the opposite approach and look for the value in things. How can this thing make your life better? How can it improve the lives of others that I know – or even others that I don’t know?

Go even further and relate the positive value in the things that you see. When people are talking about something, point out the positives, not the negatives. There are plenty of people out there that relish in the negatives and delight in seeing them. Look at things differently and find value in them.

Someday I'll have a named chair in the Humanities division
Someday I’ll have a named chair in the Humanities division,by Quinn Dombrowski

Conceit
Overly high self-esteem; vain pride.

Conceited people aren’t enjoyable to be around. Their high opinion of themselves makes it difficult to converse and to interact in any sort of equal way. They wear their achievements as a badge and often stretch those achievements to an incomprehensible level. You know how good they are because they tell you how good they are.

Not only that, conceited folk often have a miscalculated view of their own abilities. They’ll lead people into a situation while being underprepared for it, as their conceit tells them that they’re ready. They’ll turn down genuine offers of help that could put them in a better place because their vain pride makes them turn it away.

Conceit makes people who are without work not go to the food pantry. Conceit makes CEOs make incredibly poor decisions against the advice of the people around them. Conceit makes people in the office believe they can pretty much engage in whatever behavior they so choose.

In each case, conceit eventually makes those you rely on turn against you and can also make your overall life situation far worse. Being proud beyond reason eventually results in a crash – and it’s one that is often painful and difficult to recover from.

The opposite of conceit is humility. Humility means that, regardless of your internal sense of self-worth, you interact with the world with a sense of modesty and respect for the value of others. When others tell you things, you listen to what they say and try to incorporate it into what you know rather than finding ways to blow them off and prove them wrong. When you interact with others, they come first, not you.

Humility can be practiced quite easily. If you achieve something, don’t bring it up to everyone you know. If it’s worthwhile enough, they’ll hear about it from other sources. It’s fine to discuss your achievements if others bring them up, but if they don’t, keep quiet. Eventually, your reputation will precede you, which is far better than your mouth preceding your reputation.

Along those same lines, minimize your achievements when you discuss them. Don’t try to make them seem large. Instead, try to make them seem small with your words. Other people will draw their own conclusions about the merit of your achievements without you having to tell them about it.

Never forget that people are far more impressed by your actions than by your words describing those actions. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Let your actions define who you are, not your re-telling or bragging about those actions.

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