Sunday, 21 November 2010

To Thine Own Self Be True?

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 man.

So says Polonius to his son in Act I of Hamlet.  Nutsy quoted it recently in her blog, Miss Gracie, and it got me thinking (hat tip or something to Easy here too).

"Be true to myself" - which self? The self-ish, self-indulgent self who just wants an excuse to do things its own way? The idealistic, possibly even priggish, self who wants to help make the world a better place, whatever the cost?

Down the sidebar of this blog, under 'About Me', I call myself a "child of God: created in His image, fallen, redeemed, struggling, looking forward to renewal" - lots of selfs, not all of which I can be true to at the same time. For me, the self I really want to be true to is the one I believe I was made to be. Not the messed-up, twisted, distorted image that I have become, but the restored, renewed self that I originally should have been and, God-willing, one day will be. The sidebar continues, "weary of empty religion," surely any religion is empty which doesn't encourage and support us in being true to the best we can be, rather than just what we are now; the people we were made to be, not just souls overly shaped by the world in which we live.

A few months before he died, Johnny Cash recorded a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt:-

I find it painful watching; Cash seems to have been a man who really epitomised truth, in all its painful honesty. YouTube also has a part of documentary featuring the Hurt video and interviews with friends and family. This is excellent, I think, but do watch the straight Cash video above first:-


  1. I had not heard that Johnny Cash song before. It gave me chills, and it is somewhat punishing to watch.

  2. There's a quote from Trent Reznor, who wrote the song, once he'd seen the video of Johnny Cash's version:

    "I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure."

  3. BlackPhi, I believe being true to oneself is a matter of personal integrity. When one does things that doesn't sit right with yourself, it can be very gut wrenching. I have no doubt that many men and women who go into the military, discovering the reality of going into battle and doing some inhumane things to humanity, know this idea of personal integrity well. It's what makes many veterans 'head cases' when they return home.

    Many people find doing their job can call for things that don't sit right with them personally. Whether soldier or worker or parent etc., when one's personal integrity raises its head, it's important to listen. Otherwise it affects one's whole being, negatively.

  4. Integrity is a tricky idea, it seems to me. If, in their heart, someone is basically rather self-centred, then acting selfishly is being true to themselves. If someone is, deep down, racist, then does speaking and acting against other races show integrity?

    The claim that if you are true to yourself you cannot be false to anyone else rather seems to depend on everyone being basically decent and basically good, which is a very big assumption.

    Putting others first even if you don't feel like it, or treating all men and women alike even if that means putting your own prejudice aside, can be a way to move beyond one's own limitations, hopefully to grow. Do we wait for our hearts to change before we treat others decently, or do we seek to treat other people well, and so to grow in our own hearts?