Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Truth : Taking Responsibility

| 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.

- Polonius, in Hamlet, Act I Scene iii (William Shakespeare) 

I've been having discussions with a few people lately about how important it is to be honest about even the little things, to maintain personal integrity. The practice of honesty with oneself (and then inevitably with others) is one that, in today's society, is slowly going the way of the whooping crane. 

It is high time to revive it. 

During the last four and a half years, I've been living a lifestyle that demands rigorous honesty - first with the self, then with God and with others.

That forces me to be realistic with myself about a great many things I might otherwise have shoved under the carpet and lived in denial about. It fertilizes my conscience. It demands that I own up to my mistakes - even to (and especially to) my children. It makes me examine the motivations behind my own behaviors that still at times baffle me.

I've discovered that as I embrace this personal honesty, I have less tolerance for being snowed, no matter who's doing it. It's like I have this "BS meter" that points not only within but also outward. It pings all over the place when I hear people talk whose power has gone to their heads - notably politicians, high-ranking officials in businesses or organizations, and the like. 

However, the loudest pinging goes on when I am not being true to my moral compass, when I allow myself to be led astray or I start rationalizing my behavior to myself. That's a good sign. The loudest pinging used to be when I noticed someone else being dishonest. I still notice, but it's tempered with the knowledge that it could just as easily be me compromising my principles to satisfy some ulterior motive.  I know. I've done it.

Insisting on honesty doesn't mean I'm not tactful when I notice something askew in someone else's behavior. It doesn't mean I "let it all hang out" and justify my lambasting someone by saying that I'm being honest. Nor does it mean that I keep silent when silence is not called for. It means that I look at my own reactions and check my own integrity first. It means that I understand that I am human. Fallible.  And that it is okay to make mistakes - as long as I recognize them, and that I learn from them. 

Telling myself the truth is the first step in me taking responsibility for my part in whatever situation has become unlivable. It doesn't allow me the luxury of blaming another person entirely for the state of a relationship or a situation.

When I do need to confront someone, I remind myself to do so in meekness and kindness, with consideration for that person's feelings. It's the way I want to be treated whenever I mess up.

Wouldn't you?

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