Introspection and Improvement

Sant Rajinder Singh Ji

When we apply for a job and write a resume, we usually try to highlight all the good things about our experience, our background, and ourselves. Many people hide all the difficulties they have had in their career and focus on their great achievements. When employers read such resumes, they often feel each is describing the greatest person who ever lived. We try to put ourselves in the best possible light to land the job.
When going to a bank for a business loan, we also list our greatest financial achievements and best references. We want to appear to be a safe client and not a credit risk. We write down all our business and financial successes in the hope that the loan officer will grant a loan.
When applying for college or business school, we collect all the best references from former teachers so that a college will find us appealing as a candidate. Few people would request letters from teachers who would describe them as slacking off or misbehaving. We want to show ourselves in our best light.
When we attempt to gain anything in the world, it is often based on the concept that we put ourselves forward and hide our weaknesses. This is typical in worldly affairs.
In this connection, there is a true story from the sports world. A university football team was conditioning themselves by practicing running. One of the players had the position of lineman. This large player was in a tackle position and considered the fastest lineman on the team. One day, he walked up to his coach and asked if he could run sprints with the fastest running backs. The coach gave him permission.
The lineman went out daily to run, but each day he came in last. Day after day, he continued to run with the fastest backs, even though each day he lost. This was to be expected because linemen are generally not considered as fast as the running backs.
The coach, thinking it was strange, asked himself, “Why would this football player want to play with the best runners and continually come in last when he could run with the linemen and be the fastest?”
The coach observed the young man and finally, after seeing the lineman lose for many days, decided to ask him: “Wouldn’t you prefer to be a winner and run with the other lineman, rather than keep being a loser running with the backs?”
He was surprised to hear the football player’s answer.
The young man said, “I’m not here to outrun the linemen. I already know I can do that. I’m here to learn how to run faster, and if you have noticed, Sir, I lose to the backs by a little less each day!”
This account holds the secret to our spiritual progress. Whereas in worldly work, we always want to appear the best, when it comes to spiritual work, we cannot hide who we are from God. Our progress is an open book to the Lord. The grace we receive to progress spiritually is based on sincere efforts. We cannot hide the truth of our spiritual gains and failures from the Creator.
The football player learned that he would not improve by living on past glories. He knew he could only improve by challenging himself. By seeing his weaknesses as a runner, he could work on them to improve. By pitting himself against those who were better than he was in the area he wanted to master, his shortcomings would become visible and he could work on overcoming them. He was after improvement, not accolades and praise.
The football player could see what the other runners were doing and could work on developing his ability. The losses showed him what he needed to do better the next time. By doing this, each day he lost by a little less. When we look at our failures, we know what we have to do to do better each day. Then, by making an effort, we will have fewer failures than on the previous day. Over time, we would ultimately reach a stage in which we have improved and reach zero failures.
We cannot hide our failings from God, who sees all. God wants our honest efforts in overcoming the failures. When the Lord sees us making an effort to honestly assess our failings, even if we have difficulties, our sincerity is recognized. God then responds with compassion and grace. Thus, if we are still struggling, we will get help. God gives us a boost to overcome our failings so we can weed them out and make progress.
If we practice introspection with complete honesty and sincerity, focusing on areas in which we need to improve, we will see rapid spiritual progress. If we put it to the test, we will be able to see the results and proof for ourselves.