IF YOU CAN’T TRUST YOURSELF, WHO CAN?
There was a time when every young person recognized his name, William Shakespeare, the brilliant English playwright. One of his most famous lines reads: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”1 It involves a conversation between Laertes and his sister Ophelia about the trip he is taking. Their father, Lord Polonius walks in and tells his son to hurry up and get going. He instructs him to behave well and not to become involved in things that could lead him astray. He tells him to listen and not talk too much. Also, don’t judge others falsely. But, at the same time not to misrepresent himself with fancy clothing. Then comes these words of advice: This above all: to thine own self be true.
I like the thoughts that psychologist Irene Matiatos who shares that while most of us are familiar with the above quote taking from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but how many of us know the rest of this verse? It goes: “And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” She continues to say that unless we are true to ourselves first, we can’t be true to others. She asks: “How many of us have a hard time being true to ourselves?” In other words, those of us who have turned over the running of our lives to others, thereby loosing who we are in the process, will certainly have a hard time being true to ourselves. Dr. Matiato continues: “Allowing someone else to define who we are, we lose our ability to discover and grow inwardly. We no longer are able to discern truth from a lie. For many of us, we have accepted lies for so long, that finding out what is true takes time. Having done this very thing, I know how difficult the journey to self-discovery can be.”2
It all starts with being honest with ourselves. Believe it or not, when we go to God in prayer, we are sometimes not honest with Him because we are not being true to ourselves. Since God sees, hears, and knows everything, who do we think we are fooling? When it comes to our spouses and our children, don’t be deceived, they know a lot more about our pretensions than we think they do. And what about our friends. The longer we’ve known them, the more they can tell when we are not being truthful with them. As Shakespeare said, the reason we cannot be truthful with them is that we are not being honest with ourselves.
God doesn’t answer prayers like that, and pretty soon both our spouse and children will begin to dismiss much of what we say as being untrue. And our former friends? That’s why they are no longer our friends. So let’s take these words to heart. When we say something, mean it. When we tell someone something, make sure it is true. But most of all, when we look into the mirror, make sure we inform the one we are looking at the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us, God. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 William Shakespeare: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, (Act I, Scene 3, Line 81)