The courage to be true
May 14, 2012 by Bill
The courage it takes to “be true to thine own self” is enormous. We have pressure from all sides to be everything other than our true selves. Pressure is often constant from family, peers, friends, society, relatives for us to be what “they” want us to be. Or that we do whatever it is “they” want us to do. The pressures of society can keep us divorced from ourselves for our entire lives.
One of the giant Federal Judges of our history addressed this problem. Learned Hand wrote: “Since our ancestors rose upon their hind legs to become Homo sapiens there have never been so many people who ate alike, slept alike, hated alike, loved alike, wore the same clothes and used the same furniture in the same houses, went to the same games and saw the same plays, read the same books and magazines, went to the same church and believed in the same God, and yet were all confidently assured that they were individuals and independent.”
There was an American giant of letters. He was admired over the entire world for his brilliance in thought and writing. His name was Ralph Waldo Emerson. He wrote of this problem of being true “to thine own self” in one of his most remarkable and penetrating essays. It is a very simple, direct answer to what you must do if you make the courageous choice to be true to yourself.
“O Father..O Mother..O Wife..O Brother..O Sister..O Child..O Friend..Henceforward I am the truth’s. I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will seek to deserve that you should. I will no longer hide my tastes and my aversions. I will trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever rejoices me and my heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions. I WILL SEEK MY OWN. I do this not selfishly, but truly. It is alike in your interest and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine and if we follow our own truth it will bring us out safe at last.”
I have never read a finer definition of what is required to finally live, courageously. In that clear paragraph is the latitude and longitude of living with the truth of your own unique nature, of being “true to thine own self.”