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DON MURRAY: To thine own self be true

A Word to the Spiritual Seekers


It’s a good idea to check in with yourself now and again. Better still if you do it regularly. In this complex and confusing world, keeping track of your values and goals and living them amid the responsibilities and pressures of life can be a problem.

I’m thinking of a couple of very public political examples of people checking in with themselves and choosing to follow the ethical dictates of their souls. Jody Wilson-Raybould has caused quite a stir by resigning her cabinet post because she experienced what to her were pressures to intervene in the case against SNC-Lavalin. It would be very much to the government’s political advantage if the case did not go forward. As attorney general she had the power to do that. However, she chose not to intervene. She chose, rather, to “hold true to (her) core values and principles and to act with integrity.” (quoting an article by Jim Vibert).

Here is a woman who is in constant touch with who she is and is prepared to act accordingly, at the risk of her political career. Her action became even more poignant when Jane Philpott resigned her cabinet post in solidarity – another woman in touch with who she is. Others might experience the situation differently but these women were responding from deep within themselves.

The other example is Michael Cohen, once Donald Trump’s right-hand man. In his testimony before a House intelligence panel he declared Trump to be “a con man, cheat and racist.” Here is a man who seems to have lost touch with who he was and blindly followed Trump. However, he checked in with his values and integrity and made an about face.

There are always those who can’t believe that anyone would act out of their integrity rather than for their short-term interest. And motives are often mixed. I believe, however, that there is an awareness and pressure within most of us to bring our best selves to family, work, play, and all aspects of our lives.

No doubt we all compromise ourselves in numerous ways, often without even knowing it. Even to live in this society is to be part of a dominant and domineering culture with a long history of believing and acting as if we have the best answers and may of life. We carry the burden of an arrogance that has subverted and exploited other countries and cultures. Our treatment of the First Nations of this country is a case in point.

And within our own culture there are layers of haves and have nots that are largely accepted. Fortunately, such ingrained injustice is becoming more exposed and there are people and programs to helping those who suffer from our inequalities. But the attitudes and policies that cause the injustice, especially distributive injustice – everyone getting their share – often fly below our radar.

In our personal situations many face challenges to their values and integrity. Sometimes so much so that we can easily lose sight of our best selves. There is always the pressure of power, greed, the need for profits, the need to maintain our income, the corrosive power of living within the survival instincts of institutions and individuals, and whatever else.

The church is a good example for those of us who have some responsibility for maintaining it as an institution. Is a fixed set of beliefs the way to do that? Or does there need to be an openness to innovation and creativity and the evolving of new ways of understanding? Where should the line between the two be drawn? The United Church has traditionally been quite open and accepting. Perhaps not so much so recently. But with the acceptance of Gretta Vosper a new chapter may be coming. Being of the open sort I don’t think I would have survived in any other denomination.

I believe that the only way forward is with those who do live according to their values. We see the above mentioned very public figures but there are countless people doing what they can to bring justice and integrity to their particular situation.

And the last word to Shakespeare, the ever insightful bard. “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any (one).”

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