Q. I can probably be called a "professional nag." I badger my husband for everything, from the tie he chooses to wear, to the way he talks to me, to the odd hours he keeps. Of course, my criticism doesn't help anyone, but I cannot help doing it and it makes me feel terrible. How can I learn to bite my tongue?

A. The Bal Shem Tov taught that when a person is faced with a situation that compels him to judge others, he should be aware that this person is a mirror image of himself and his opinion of the other person is, in fact, a judgment on himself. The following story illustrates the Bal Shem Tov's idea.

Nathan the Prophet came to King David, and told him a story about a wealthy man who owned many sheep and cattle. One day, the rich cattle dealer stole the beloved lamb of a poor man who had raised it from birth. When King David heard these words he cried out, "The man who has done this deserves to die…"

At that point, the prophet told King David that the story was merely a parable describing one of the king's actions. By accusing the rich man, the king was actually pointing a finger at himself.

With this in mind, a totally new perspective opens to us. When confronted with a behavior or character trait that impacts us, we can understand that there's a message. Rather than leaping to pass judgment on that person – either positively or negatively – a moment of introspection can lead to remarkable results.

Our spouses (or in-laws, neighbors, kids… those who know how to push our buttons) are our mirrors, and also our greatest teachers. Like the cattle dealer to King David, they reveal something about us.

When a person charges others as defective, he's often got the same defect. As someone once said: when pointing a finger at someone, you're actually pointing two fingers at yourself. On the surface, this idea may seem ludicrous at best. But human beings are biased. It's painful for us to see our own shortcomings, so we bury them deep inside our consciousness, determined to forget them. That is why our normal human flaws are more easily visible in those who mirror us than in ourselves. When we shift focus from the other person to ourselves, we discover similar traits inside us.

Mirror images reflect both positive and negative aspects. When an acquaintance meets you with a wide smile, you can't help but smile back; a nice compliment elicits a kind word in return. And let someone express their admiration for you and you'll find that you've actually admired that person all along.

When you're witness to another person's tears, does it touch a chord in you? Does it evoke your own tears and pain? Scientific research indicates that there are mirror neurons that get activated when we hear of another person's pain, so we actually feel the pain to a certain degree.

Similarly, when you're hurt by your husband's manner of speaking, does it perhaps reflect the way you talk to him? Does his crazy schedule drive you nuts because sticking to a routine schedule is hard for you? Or perhaps the opposite is true – do you feel frustrated by the rigidity of your schedule and therefore harbor jealousy for his freedom?

It can be challenging to decipher the reflection we see in our "mirrors," but when we realize that they offer us a whole world of information, the process of acceptance and change can begin. Then, as we learn to adjust ourselves accordingly, our mirrors will change. Suddenly, those things that bothered us in the other person will no longer take on the same importance. And as we learn to accept and appreciate ourselves, we learn to value and cherish our loved ones as well.