Because of my integrity You uphold me and set me in Your presence forever. Psalm 41:12
When I was growing up, my mother often quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day thou canst not then be false to any man.” Because my relationship with my mother was complicated, I always thought these words were bad advice, that my mother was saying I was better than everyone else. But as I began to mature, I recalled her words and realized they spoke more about personal integrity than the desire to be somebody special.
Until Jesus became my Lord and Savior, being true to myself did seem selfish. But as I began to embody the values taught by Christ, I became that person Shakespeare (and my mother) spoke of. I found my “moral compass,” and I began to relate to other people from a healthier point of view. And it was true: I could not be false as I had once been in my youth. I could only go forth in God’s marvelous light and seek to remain in that light as much as possible.
Nelson Mandela said, “The first thing is to be honest with yourself….Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” I realize now that every lasting philosophy of self-improvement has at its core the concept of beginning with one’s self. Alcoholics Anonymous and A-Anon, its companion program for the loved ones of addicted persons, are both built on the concept that each individual must “work her own program.” In my counseling training and experience, the concepts that have worked the best begin with an individual being honest with himself, and then choosing thoughts and actions based on truthfulness and sound values. It’s been said that true personal satisfaction comes from doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
I don’t know if Shakespeare was a Christian. But I can say that he had the right idea about walking in our own integrity. That puts us on a clear path to treating our fellow human beings with respect, affording them dignity, and most of all loving them as Christ would do.
Jesus, help me stay close to You so I can be like You to everyone I meet. Amen