Be true to yourself | Sunday Observer

Be true to yourself

19 February, 2023

Aman’s true greatness lies in the conscious estimate of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examination and a steady obedience to the rule which knows to be right, without troubling himself about what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not that which he thinks and says and does. - Marcus Aurelius

The first step of being true to yourself is to decide whether you are an honest or dishonest person. This is vital because there is no middle point. When I visited a friend I saw a simple motto hanging on the living-room wall. It read, “Life is like a field of newly fallen snow; where I choose to walk every step will show.” Just hanging a motto serves no purpose. You have to demonstrate the motto by the way you live.

As we grow old we understand instinctively that integrity involves having a personal standard of morality that does not sell out to expediency. Integrity is an inner standard you develop over the years for judging your own behaviour. Most of us are in the habit of judging the behaviour of others. This should be changed.

You should first judge your own behaviour. Since this appears to be a tall order, integrity is in short supply today. It is getting scarcer day by day. Unfortunately, we forget that it is the real bottom line in every area of society. It is something you should demand from yourself.

Integrity consists of three key principles. You should be able to stand firm for your convictions in the face of outside pressure. This reminds me of a trainee nurse who worked in an operating theatre. The surgeon was performing an abdominal operation. After the operation, the nurse told the surgeon that he had removed only 11 sponges from the abdomen although he had used 12. She insisted that he should look for the missing sponge.

However, the surgeon told her that the operation was over. But the nurse reminded the surgeon that he should think of the patient. At that stage, the surgeon lifted his foot and showed her the missing sponge. The surgeon said, “You’ll do just fine in any other hospital.”

Company of dwarfs

Once, an elderly man went out of his way to get a teaching post to an unemployed graduate. He showed her the way to apply for a teaching job in a government school and even filled the application form. After some time he met the girl now employed as a teacher. Instead of thanking him, she told him that all those who applied for teaching posts were recruited as teachers. This shows how people avoid giving the credit to someone.

David Ogilvy, founder of the advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather sent a note to the newly-appointed office heads. It read, “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, our company will be full of giants.” Ogilvy knew the importance of appointing highly-qualified people to his company. In Sri Lanka, however, most employers do not recruit people who are more qualified than them.

Those who lack core values rely on external factors such as good looks and status. They feel good when they are brought to office in a chauffeur-driven car. This will become a false façade unless they develop their inner values for personal growth. To do this, you have to be true to yourself.

You should learn the art of facing reality and life’s challenges.

When you do so, you will soon acquire self-respect and a clear conscience. They are powerful components of integrity. When you are armed with integrity, you will always do the right thing not what is fashionable or politically correct.

Will you accept an honorary doctorate from a university? Playwright Neil Simon has questioned the value of an honorary degree after receiving one from Williams College. He said honorary degrees are usually given to people whose scholastic aptitude test scores were too low to get them into colleges in the regular way.

He said, “What does an honorary doctorate afford me in life? Am I now more intelligent or am I just honorarily smarter? Will I be invited to home coming games on the 50-yard line, or which will entitle me to listen to games on the radio? Actually, people with honorary degrees are often looked upon with disfavour. Would you let an honorary mechanic fix your brand new Mercedes?”

Honesty in all aspects of life, little or big, is as rewarding as a good-luck coin – for truth lies on one side, well-being on the other. As you advance in life, you will realise that honesty is the world’s greatest labour-saving device. In fact, honesty is more than a labour-saving device. It is the ultimate of economy in all human relations.

“Honesty is the best policy” is an old and oft-quoted proverb. From a worldly point of view, it pays to be honest. However, a really honest man will not ask whether honesty pays or not. He simply feels he must be honest, even if it brings him loss or suffering. Thus the proverb has no meaning for those who are honest. It is meant for unprincipled dishonest men and women. Suppose you get Rs 5,000 in excess when you withdraw money from your account. If you are an honest person, you will return it immediately. For a dishonest person, it is a bonus. He can buy whatever he wants with that money. He fails to realise that honesty pays in the long run.

Honest businessman

An honest businessman will prosper because of his reputation. Similarly, if you are in the habit of returning any amount of money received in excess, you will soon be an honest man. People will be glad to deal with such a person. Although you may not prosper immediately, you will lead a satisfactory life.

If you look at some of the successful businessmen, you will note that they have been collecting enormous profits due to their trickery. For them, dishonesty is the best policy. Of course, such dishonest people will come to grief sooner or later.

An honest person is a seeker after truth and he will not compromise with untruth. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was an extremely honest man. When he was young, he travelled 26 miles to return 25 cents he had received in excess from a trader. There are still such honest men and women in society although they belong to a minority.

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