To Thine Own Self Be True!

Posted By: Dieuner Joseph | Friday, November 09, 2012


To Thine Own Self Be True
Jhn 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

In Act I, scene III (59–80) of Hamlet, Polinius gives this famous bit of fatherly advice to his son Laertes shortly before Laertes left for France:

 to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

As I reflect on the recent Presidential election, I think one of the primary reasons governor Mitt Romney lost is because a majority of the electorate felt that he wasn’t true to himself. Throughout the Republican primary, Romney was often criticized for not being conservative enough. Neocons of the Christian Right didn’t want to support him because of his Mormon religion and his moderate record during his term as governor of Massachussets.  He struggled against Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich as he was not seen as conservative as they. However, in the end, he received the nod from the republican establishment to become the Nominee for the party.

 The support of the Republican establishment was predicated upon Romney’s willingness to morph into a neocon. In the early stages of the race against president Barack Obama, he played the role very well as he traveled the country espousing neo conservative ideologies that earned him the support of such Neocons as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.  However, I believe Romney knew he would have to move more toward the center if he were to have any chance of defeating president Obama.

 After a stellar performance in the first presidential debate, Romney started to make that move towards the center because he started to get the support of moderate individuals who were dissatisfied with Obama and wanted the country to go in a different direction. Therefore, he began to change his neoconservative stance on many of the issues. By the time we got to the third Presidential debate, Romney had so changed that he lost his legitimacy as a conservative candidate and appeared to be just like the “Moderate Mitt” who was criticized by Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and the rest of the neocons during the Republican primary.

 Mitt should have listened to the advice given to Laertes by Polonius:

to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

 Pursuant to his defeat to Obama, Mitt has been harshly and unfairly criticized by the neocons for not being conservative enough. He is also criticized by the liberal left for being too conservative.  Many independents felt that Mitt was too unpredictable and inconsistent to be trusted as the President of the United States. They did not necessarily approve of  Obama in his first term, but at least they didn’t question the president’s consistency on the issues.

 In the end, Americans only got to see the real Romney during the concession speech. He was sincere, moderate, profoundly bipartisan and passionate about the country. If he had used that persona throughout that campaign, he would have received far more votes than he did; and possibly won the election.

 Like Romney, many of us are so focused on pleasing others that we don’t know how to be true to ourselves. We work hard at being true to others (family, friends, colleagues, employers) but we neglect the most important person of all - oneself. Consequently, we fail everyone. We portray an image of ourselves that is based on half-truths and fantasies. We spend a lot of our awaken moments performing in order to get the approval and the accolades of others. We repress inner feelings and addictions in order to avoid the condemnation of our peers and loved ones instead of confessing and admitting to them and seeking help from them.

 People who cannot be true to themselves will always be false to others. The drug addict, for example, who denies the fact that he has an addiction will mislead and deceive everyone around him. The cheating spouse who does not admit that he or she has a commitment or sexual problem will never fully live out their God-given mandate in the ministry of marriage.

 What does it mean to be true to oneself? It means knowing one’s limits and weaknesses even as you take full advantage of your strengths and giftedness. It is knowing who you really are from the inside out, and not who others want you to be. It means having realistic expectations of oneself and being pragmatic in our decision making.

 Most people love being around those who are genuine and sincere. That’s why honesty is such a powerful characteristic. None of us want to be deceived. We all want the truth because it makes us free to love, worship, fellowship, seek help, and free to be ourselves in a melting pot of diversity.

 Furthermore, no one can be true to God if one cannot be true to oneself. After all, God can only be worshiped in spirit and in truth. It is really those who are true to God about their shortcomings that are better used by God. When God asked Moses to go to Egypt to set His people free, Moses told God that he had a speech impediment. He knew his weakness and did not try to hide it from God. Nevertheless, he was greatly used by God. When David was about to confront the giant Goliath, Saul tried to give him his armor to go into battle. But the armor was too big and heavy for David who was after all a young teenage boy who only knew how to look after his father’s sheep. So he took a sling shot and five smooth stones as his weapon of choice because that’s really what he knew how to use. David was free to move around and hit the giant in the right spot with his stones because he was true to himself as a shepherd boy and a neophyte in military weaponry.

 God has a blessing and an inheritance for each of us, but we cannot and will not get it until we are true to ourselves about our need for God and our dependency on God. Some of us may need to be true to ourselves about our wastefulness and greed before we can come out of our current financial mess. Others may need to be true to themselves about their lust for power and control before their career can take off in the right direction. Some may need to be true to themselves about their poor eating habits and their gluttony before they will lose those extra pounds. Others may need to be true to themselves about their insecurities, low self esteem, compulsive personality, and abusive past, before they can have a free flowing and loving relationship with someone else.

 Actor and Columnist Michael Moriarty observed that “the irony in the [aforementioned] quote from Shakespeare's play Hamlet is that it is the character of Polonius who says it, and he, throughout the drama, reveals himself as the most Machiavellian member in the cast -- plotting and conniving and spying, sins for which he ultimately dies.” Perhaps we pastors, preachers, and evangelists can learn a lesson from that and refrain from pontificating about the sins of others when we are not being true to ourselves in living the sermons that we preach. Perhaps some of us Christians should stop pointing out the sins of others until we are willing to be true to our blood-washed, Calvary redeemed, heaven bound, Holy Ghost filled identity as the royal priesthood and the Holy nation of 1Peter 2:9. Perhaps we should all listen to Shakespeare when he says:

 to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man


About The Author

Rev. Dieuner Joseph is a dynamic leader, disciple Maker, Writer, Talk Show host, and Spiritual counselor. Reverend Joseph is the founder of the Imani Temple Baptist Church and the Disciple Maker Ministry. He is a skilled Bible teacher who carefully and responsibly exegete the Scriptures to make them relevant to today’s readers. Through his Blog and weekly Christian magazine- The Wednesday Word- he seeks to provide Bible based instructions for dealing with the socio-political issues of today.

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