This above all: to thine own self be true.
After my first wife and I separated, I dated and fell in love with a woman who lived some distance away. I was enamored with this person who seemed to be able to accept me as I was. Then one day she commented that I was living in my head… I was so far into my head in those days I didn’t know what she meant, but when she recommended that I attend a weeklong personal development lab, I agreed.
The personal growth lab experience was transformational. Remember, I was pretty messed up, having just come out of a long difficult marriage, so there was lots to work on. I gained clarity as I worked through some of the loose ends from my marriage breakup. I regained my connection to my heart.
When I got home I knew I could not be with this lady. It was not about her. I knew deep down if I made my life with her, I would be denying my calling. If I had just continued on with the relationship, I would have betrayed myself.
I cared for her, but difficult as it was, I had to tell her that our relationship was over. In her view I had betrayed her…and perhaps I did. I admit I felt guilty about it. But what else was I to do? I had learned by that age that you never want to step out of your integrity, because the ultimate betrayal is self-betrayal.
Occasionally you may feel betrayed by another. Betrayed is what I was feeling when my second wife called to announce our separation. In hindsight, it’s probable she was trying to avoid self-betrayal, since she did go through a number of major changes shortly after we separated. Betrayal is in part a matter of perception.
If someone tells you to behave in a way that isn’t you, that could be betrayal. It is self-betrayal when you step out of your own integrity to accommodate him. That is not being true to yourself.
Suppose, for example, you pride yourself on always keeping your commitments to others and paying your bills on time. But what if your partner continually pressures you to not pay this or that bill because there won’t be any consequences, or to not keep your commitment to so-and-so because he isn’t very important? If you remain true to yourself and refuse to give in to his pressure, he might even see your not going along with his wishes as a betrayal of him.
What are the consequences of allowing another person to persuade you to step out of your integrity? What happens if you are not true to yourself? It sets up a dynamic that eats away inside of you and brings out the worst in you. It diminishes your presence. It isolates you.
Yet, who among us has not at least occasionally slipped out of integrity? I invite you to reflect on how well you have managed your life to be true to yourself.