Am I being too catty?

Dear Edahn,

I love what you've done with the blog and I am an avid reader. Anyways, I was wondering if you could maybe attempt to provide me with some insight. I feel as though as I am a negative person. I don't go out of my way to cut people down but I shit talk a lot. I make catty comments about people. And while I'd love to rid myself of this quality I often feel that my comments are well-deserved.

As an avid reader of AskEdahn, I will safely assume you are a being of superior intellect and that your observations of others are incisive and accurate.

I tend to see negative qualities around me too. Being in the legal field for about a year and a half has exposed me to an enormous amount of dishonesty and greed that I imagine characterizes most of corporate America and politics. In addition to deceiving others, many of these people engage in a healthy amount of self-deception, pretending they're doing the right thing and that their pet-philosophy somehow justifies their actions. It's spiritually disappointing. Those qualities also pervade everyday social interaction, some of which you're experiencing right now. It's very real.

One thing I wasn't quite clear about from your question is why you think this is a problem. Are you getting into fights with people? Having trouble sustaining friendships or relationships? Being too harsh on yourself? Addicted to gossiping? Have you lost your faith in others? Or, are you simply feeling guilty because as children, we're misled to believe that we're supposed to be nice and proper, even at the expense of being genuine?

Simply seeing faults in others isn't a bad thing; it's a good thing. Being able to recognize the difference between right and wrong, healthy and dysfunctional, and harmony and conflict is the basis of leading a virtuous life. It's also the basis of helping others, whether you start a shitty blog in some remote corner of the Internet or campaign for reform on the international front. The great humanitarians of our age -- Gandhi, Einstein, Huxley, MLK -- were also the great critics. They saw corruption, arrogance, and recklessness and spoke out against it. What they also saw, however, is how human illnesses stemmed from neurotic needs and fears -- fear of the future, fear of inferiority, fear of falling behind. These people were slaves to their fears and lacked the courage to stand up and talk shit to them. Blaming these people made no sense because blame never inspires courage. Instead they chose to model responsible living, empower others, and be damn sexy while doing so.

My advice to you isn't to stop looking for fault, but to use your insight to look even deeper into people to determine what lies behind those faults. Where does greed come from? Where does hatred and competition come from? Where does deceit come from? Read, look, and listen. If you can integrate that understanding with your current insight, I think you can unleash some tremendous wisdom and feel more at ease about your perspective.