There is a quote from Shakespeare that has always rung so true to me that for a long time I thought it came from the Bible: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, that thou canst not then be false to any man.” Today I am writing about being true to the person you were created to be, about how knowing yourself well is a big part of being true to oneself, and how that is an important part of the requirement to bring our whole selves to God in love. Jesus’ great commandment states that we are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength and all our mind.[Matthew 22:37] So let’s look at how well we are acquainted with these different aspects of ourselves.
Let’s start with the heart. How well do you know your heart? What stories get to you the most? Suffering children, animals, poor people? Who pulls your heart strings the most? What do you care about beyond everything else? What, who are you passionate about? The heart is not just the emotional center, it is the center of love in us, it is our lifeblood, the core of who we are. Without the heart we die. So it is in life: without living through the heart, we are not living fully. The physical heart also has a brain which directs a lot of the hormonal production in our bodies, so it affects every organ, is the connector, activator between all the various parts of ourselves.
Who, what do you love? What is lifeblood to you? Who, what can’t you live without? How well do you know your own heart?
And how about your soul? Have you even caught the drift of your soul’s longing? Do you always shut it down when it calls you to what is most essential? Do you deny its knowledge, compare it to the cultural offerings, so it always falls short? What do you do with your own soul? Along with the heart it is your core essence, once you have stripped off the cultural influences. The soul knows what brings you joy, purpose and fulfillment and can lead you right to them.
But the soul is shy. It doesn’t emerge from its hiding place deep within us if the person is hostile to it. It needs to be coaxed out, listened to. It needs to gain ground in the person before it will really begin to lead. The soul holds the agenda for your life, who and what your created talents and gifts and even challenges imply about your own fulfillment, your purpose, what brings you joy.
The soul also is our chief communicator with God, it helps us hear that “still, small voice” within. It facilitates our understanding of what it means to be faithful to and to love God. How well do you know your own soul, your own true self?
How well do you know your body? Where do you experience stress? Headaches, acid in your stomach, tension in your shoulders and neck, difficulty swallowing, constipation, others? These stress-induced symptoms and others can be signals to you of what is happening inside and around you. The sooner we can interpret the symptom when it appears, the sooner we can discover the underlying cause of the stress and work to relieve our bodies of the stress which distracts us from our true selves.
I most often experience stress in the intestinal tract. !Gross! you say. And it’s true. If my intestines aren’t working, that’s a red flag waving for me. I stop and register what is happening and then lift up a prayer to release the tension. And it works. How well do you take care of your body? Exercise, eating habits, sleep habits? How do you honor your body’s needs? Our bodies house our spirits, the Indwelling Spirit of God. How well do you know your body?
How well do you know your own mind? Do you recognize the signals that it is stressed? Do you know what it likes to think about? What engages it in a positive way? What it obsesses about? What underlies the stress in your mind? Well, usually the way we think creates the stress.
What is the signal for stress in your thinking? When do the repetitive tapes pop-up with their solutions that were hammered out in childhood. “You have to do _____.” “Don’t do that!” You always must____. Or worse, “there you go again, stupid.”
These tapes long ago lost their relevance, but we keep listening to them, letting them influence our behavior, letting them keep trying to keep us in line. But they are only relevant to the past, so we need to let them go by becoming an observer, noticing them, but not getting hooked emotionally by them. We function best when the heart and mind are joined together. Do your heart and mind function cooperatively? How well do you know your mind?
Do you only know your acculturated self, the American person you have been trained to be? Do you only value its promises of belonging, of riches and power? Do you know that following these cultural expectations will in no way deliver on these promises? That its solutions will never be satisfying? That you will never get where the culture says you will? The culture is so focused on things and power over others and wealth that it doesn’t realize that it creates a hell for the person pursuing its goals. No matter how dedicated he or she is to getting “there,” he or she will never be satisfied. There is no end in wanting things and power and money. Enough doesn’t exist, so the person wanting these things races harder and harder to gain them and achieves less and less satisfaction the harder he works at it.
How well do you know yourself? How do you distinguish between the way you were created to be and what you were conditioned to be in the culture? How do you handle the stresses of life? Do you seek to numb out by any number of means—shopping, playing video games, burying your nose in a book, etc., which all can be addictive if we’re running away from life? Or are you willing to listen to all the signals your heart, mind. body and soul are sending you? Are you paying attention to your true self, your soul? Or are you totally captivated by the cultural paradigms?
Being true to your own self, as you were created to be, is about paying attention to all these signals and having a way of dealing with them that reduces the stress, does not just push it away for a while. Being true to oneself means that we can resist the outside pressures and focus on what brings us fulfillment and a purposeful life. It means that we are free to be who we were created to be. It means we can draw closer and closer to God and put our lives in his hands, because we see how beneficial God is to our lives. And when we can rest in God, we really are living as we were designed to be.
Questions to ponder over the week: How well do I know my true, created self? Or do I only know the acculturated me? What would it take for me to follow my soul’s/the Holy Spirit’s leadings?
Blessing for the week: May we know ourselves so well—warts and all, our true selves and our American selves, that we seek to love God with all of who we are. May we fulfill our purpose as we were created to be. in faith and love, Pat
If you’d like to see more of By the Waters, check these out:
–There’s a new video up on YouTube: “A Deeper, Truer Self” youtube.com/user/patsadams
–Check out my twitter feed at twitter.com/BTWwithPatAdams
–Check out the “Offerings” button on this website which links to a CD of guided meditations designed to help deepen your spiritual life and a series of booklets on the Life of the Spirit.
–Order the CD or individual tracks from it at cdbaby.com/cd/PatAdams1
 Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3