“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (William Shakespeare)
Those of you who’ve been regular visitors to The Upside have noticed that my writing this past Summer has been intermittent at best. My wife and I are in a new season of our lives, preparing for moves vocational, geographical and social. We’ve spent the past three months getting our house ready and putting it on the market. Now for a buyer.
Today marks the first day of Fall. The autumnal equinox arrived this morning. It’s a new season in more ways than one. Fall tends to put people into a more academic frame of mind, if you will. Our children return to school and people are often eager to learn and grow as the weather begins to chill and the leaves to turn. It’s always been that way with me.
This afternoon I found myself thinking about what motivates the decisions we make in life. There are numerous perceived and imperceptible influences that guide us in our decisions. Some are healthy. Others are not.
For example, you may have made decisions about where to make your home and your living out of a desire to please others, even those close to you. You may have taken on burdens simply because you were afraid that if you declined—a boundary mechanism—you would lose favor with somebody. And then you live with regret and varied degrees of toxic self-disdain and recrimination.
Some years ago, a pastoral colleague of mine shared something with me over lunch. He told me that the most important book he’d ever read, outside of the Bible, was Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. In fact, he refused to marry any couple who came to him for premarital counseling and would not read the book, a requirement for him to solemnize the nuptials. Yes, it’s that important.
Long and short of the message of Boundaries is this: The most important boundary marker you have at your disposal is the word no. You simply have to use it.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and a little ornery, but I now realize that the person I have to live with until I die—every waking and unconscious moment—is me. Christian Fahey. And when, to paraphrase Shakespeare, I’m not true to myself…I don’t walk in integrity…I’m not true to my calling, my wiring, my passions for life and vocation, I have to live with me. My conscience. My memories. My misgivings.
All of a sudden, pleasing other people at the expense of doing what I know is right and valid seems hollow indeed. Life’s too short to be somebody else.
So here’s to moving forward, living in such a way that minimizes regrets and self-doubt. Here’s to being true to the God-given vision for yours and my life. Here’s to being true to oneself.
And it will surely follow that we’ll all be more true to others.