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What it Means to Be Yourself
by David Truman

Be all you can be -- REALLY?

Three definitions of integrity

Any decision that is inconsistent with the spirit cannot be final

Why character stability depends on doing right

Overcoming, or hypocrisy?

Life on trial

The "right" judgment on life

Everyone raves about the virtue of "being yourself" -- but what does that mean? And why do most people find that such an inherently natural state is so hard to achieve?

Human beings are spiritual creatures equipped with biological bodies and material minds. We are subject to both spiritual and animal influences. We feel a myriad different emotions, encompassing the animal and the sublime. And our motives range from survival instincts to transcendental intuitions.

We are not uniform, pure entities, but rather beings composed of contradictory parts -- an ego-driven animal nature and a spirit-based Divine nature, one destructive, the other constructive. Therefore, when we try to discover "who we really are," we see a self divided, in ever-changing proportions depending on our focus at that point in time. Now you see why the classic ideal of self actualization -- being yourself -- can mean such a wide range of things.

Actually, self-actualization is very much a sorting out process. The two aspects of our self-identification -- the animal and the Divine -- are indeed quite opposite, and often in conflict. So when it comes to self-actualization, the question is, "What 'part' of myself do I WANT to be?" Unfortunately, many of us never ask that question, or make any intentional distinction between our competing halves.

Be all you can be -- REALLY?

Like army recruiters, advocates of self-actualization simply encourage us to "be all we can be." Let's explore that popular ideal further and see why it is certainly NOT advisable.

Many people say, "If you're angry, be angry. If you're resentful, express it." That sounds enlightened on the face of it, but when it comes to being faithful to our moods and impulses, where do we draw the line? If we feel like stealing, do we steal? If we feel like dumping our coffee on our supervisor's head, do we do it? Maybe "being all you can be" works in the Army, where people are trained for war, not love; but when it comes to civilized life, there are PLENTY of things we CAN be that, if we thought about the results, we might not WANT to be.

Self control does not make us hypocrites; it makes us self-masters.

This raises the issue: are we hypocrites if we don't do whatever we feel like doing? Absolutely not! Self control doesn't mean hypocrisy. Random behavior doesn't mean integrity. Integrity requires staying true to our OVERALL choices, commitments, and preferences. In fact, we become hypocrites if we do things that contradict those OVERALL DECISIONS, CHOICES, AND PREFERENCES.

Three definitions of integrity

Let's look at the meaning of integrity in more depth. People certainly have different ideas of what integrity means to them. Integrity can be defined in three different ways:





You do what you feel like doing.

You do what is consistent with the person you define yourself as being.

You do what you know is right.

1. You do what you feel like doing. If you define integrity this way, you become a person who can be counted on for nothing more than inconsistency. Doing "whatever you feel like doing" is more likely to PREVENT integrity than CREATE integrity. You can't keep your promises that way -- not even the promises you make to YOURSELF.

2. You do what is consistent with the person you define yourself as being. On the relative level, what is hypocrisy and what is integrity depends on where you are coming from. You decide who you think you are, be it good, bad, or indifferent. Then, integrity is measured by how well you live up to -- or DOWN to -- the standard you set for yourself.

What happens when you do the wrong things that the wrong "you" considers right?

Remarkably enough, this definition of integrity may mandate behavior that you, as a spiritual being, KNOW is wrong -- but is nonetheless consistent with who you have DECIDED to be. When "wrong behaviors" are consistent with the "wrong person" you have chosen to be, they become "right" for you. We face this paradox when the person we have DECIDED to be is not truly the kind of person we believe we OUGHT to be, or WISH to be, or think we essentially ARE.

3. You do what you know is (spiritually) right. According to this refreshingly simple and straightforward definition, integrity is not about doing what you feel like doing -- it's about doing what you know is the right thing to do. The beauty of this definition is that virtually anyone can agree that the resulting decisions are good ones -- not just for you, but for any person in similar circumstances. For example, any sane person agrees that keeping commitments is right.

Furthermore, only this definition of integrity -- doing what you know is right -- allows for a clear conscience. No one can feel right about a wrong choice, or good about a bad choice. This sensitivity to rightness is God's graceful gift to each and every one of us. It works over time to raise us upward.

Any decision that is inconsistent with the spirit cannot be final

As creations of God, we cannot actually re-define who we are.

A man may take pride in doing whatever he feels like, but as a spiritually sensitive being, he can't prevent himself from feeling bad about actions that are spiritually problematic. We have a right to define integrity any way we please, but ultimately, we can't redefine ourselves. We have a Divine nature that we cannot merely wish away. It calls us back to the drawing board to reassess every bad choice that we ever make. As spiritual beings, we cannot and will not be satisfied -- not truly -- until we take the high road where we took the low road before.

Why character stability depends on doing right

In one way or another, everything tugs on our heartstrings. The question is, which heart does it tug on? The lower tugs on the heart of the ego. The higher tugs on the heart of the spirit.

Until there is a clear victory in the tug of war between ego and spirit, we suffer from the troublesome problem known as mood swings (or instability of character). As long as we are making contradictory CHOICES, our lives will remain roller-coaster rides.

In the inner battle, ego and spirit both try to correct for the other's actions.

When we're down in the dumps, our spiritual side wants to remedy the situation. Therefore, a person who makes bad choices instinctively moves to offset the damage, at least partially, by doing good works. And we do feel better afterwards. But the story's not over: After a while, the good feelings that result from our efforts make our egoic side nervous. So, before long we start to bring ourselves down a bit -- by doing something not so good. This habit of alternating between the good and the not-so-good creates variation in moods.

Thus it goes on and on -- that is, up and down. The spirit corrects for the bad by being good. The ego "corrects" for the good by being bad. The turning points reflect how good, or how bad, we can tolerate feeling.

The only solution to problems of character instability is consistency of choice.

Roller-coaster rides can be nauseating. After awhile, we want stability. True stability in happiness can be realized only if we CONSISTENTLY choose along the lines that lift us spiritually. Otherwise, all we can do is hope, pray, and WONDER about the kind of mood we'll be in next week.

Consistency of choice requires consistent self-identification -- a consistent answer to the fundamental question: "What 'part' of myself do I WANT to be?" But making the higher choice and sticking to it can be challenging.

Because human personalities ARE divided, EVERYTHING is contested. In the inherent struggle between the light and the dark side of human personality, the good part resists the bad stuff, and the bad part resists the good stuff. Naturally!

The good part resists the bad stuff. All that is higher tugs us upward if we are down, and holds us up if we are up. The spirit hugs the higher and shrugs off the tugs of the lower. For example, it takes conscious effort for a naturally trusting person to be cautious of others. The extra effort is required because the heart is resisting the so-called requirements of survival.

The bad part resists the good stuff. Similarly, it takes will power to be good, because all that is lower tugs us downward if we are up, and holds us down if we are down. The ego hugs the lower and shrugs off the tugs of the higher. Whenever we extend ourselves, the ego will accuse us of hypocrisy, but that's to be expected. As the saying goes, "consider the source" and ignore it -- and keep on doing good.

Overcoming, or hypocrisy?

At first it may seem hard not to doubt your integrity when you find yourself doing something good, but feeling uncomfortable with the effort. To thoroughly "get behind" your own bright side, you must curtail the habit of self-doubt when you feel inner resistance to good thoughts and actions. Take heart by remembering any real stretch involves some discomfort. Overcoming is rarely easy, but always beneficial. Think of the effort to be good as a HEALTHY STRETCH.

For example: A fellow who wanted to get over his terror of public speaking signed up for a speech class. When his turn to speak came, he felt resistant and afraid. Was he a hypocrite because he continued in spite of his resistance? No -- in stretching beyond his limitations, he was keeping a promise to himself. In fact, given his commitment, he would have been a hypocrite if he had refused to give his speech.

The "hypocrite" engages in actions that are really against his better judgment and feels friction on that account. The "overcomer" has to stretch to do actions that are consistent with his better judgment, and internal resistance may arise because of the stretch. But that arising resistance only counts to the overcomer's credit: it is heroic indeed to perform actions that break through limitations. When we stretch for goodness' sake, we are just being true to the part of ourselves which is telling us to take the high road.

The secret of
sincere action.

The secret of sincerity in action is staying in touch with the inner goodness that inspired the action. For example: You told a friend you would help her clean her house, but as you got tired, you forgot your spirit of helpfulness. Unless you get back in touch with it, you WILL start to feel like a hypocrite -- a person who is helping, but who really doesn't want to help.

So keep in touch with your good intentions as you do good things. That way, you're not experiencing yourself as an ego trying to come from a Divine place -- you're a Divine being coming from a Divine place. This, then, is the entire secret of authentic goodness: Do exactly what you as a Divine being -- that is, a person of good intentions -- want to do. And do it in the WAY that you would have it done.

Life on trial

Life is not just a trial, life is ON trial. You are the presiding judge, and you are the jury. Time is an opportunity to observe the accumulation of evidence for the higher and against the lower. Over time, day by day, experience by experience, that evidence piles up in mountains all around. But meanwhile, the sovereign spirit sits as a judge, and deliberates as a jury over the evidence.

Judging the world afoul. Any sane person will find the lower aspects of life relatively uninteresting -- if not downright depressing -- to the spirit. And, looking critically at the mundane aspects of worldly life, any conscious person may say, "Materialistic pursuits are worthless. And all the ego games generally played in the world are garbage: they are empty, uninteresting, and valueless." That critical evaluation may represent true spiritual sensitivity to lower values. *

* UNLESS the so-called spiritual judgments are, in reality, egoically motivated. (For example, a person may be avoiding the challenges of pragmatic survival work due to laziness -- and using spiritual-sounding arguments about the folly of survivalism to support THAT.)

Judging spiritual beauty afoul. On the other hand, could a person honestly judge HIGHER things negatively? What if a person was to say, "The higher things -- the things that are healing, uplifting and beautiful, are bullshit: they are empty, uninteresting, and valueless." That statement would be DISHONEST. It's impossible for a person to HONESTLY feel negative about what is genuinely beautiful.

So, while negative reactions and judgments against beauty often occur, they are not honest. They are simply egoic reactions against what the human spirit finds desirable. Those egoic reactions are based on identification with ego -- in spite of, and in direct opposition to, the higher sensibilities of one's own spirit.


The "right" judgment on life

The "right" judgment on life is one that is consistent with the affinities of spirit. Such a judgment takes into account that all that is truly good, beneficial, and fulfilling is what is higher. Furthermore, the "right" judgment takes into account that the affinities of ego are, in fact, affinities for suffering and for death.



For the sake of human fulfillment, it is essential for a person to maintain affinity with what their spirit genuinely loves, and what their soul hungers for.

Depression consistently results from the choice for the lower. The depression response actually disproves the supposition that a person has affinity for the lower.

Happiness consistently results from the choice for the higher. The happiness response proves that the person has real -- perhaps irrepressible -- affinity for the higher.

The moral of self-identification.

You can identify with anything you want. You can identify with a rat, a door-knob, or Hitler. But it is important to know that YOUR happiness depends largely on what you really identify with. Human fulfillment depends on affinity for what fulfills.

by David Truman

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