How Do You Compromise Yourself?
To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet
When we take a look at the actions and behaviour of humans — whether in our own relationships, in the world of fiction and entertainment, or the daylight brutality we call ‘The News’, we are often upset and even angry when we see people who act contrary to our values, or their own; we are raging at those who betray or hurt other people as a result of such acts; we look at those who have lied, stolen, abused or murdered, and we want justice.
And I would say, rightly so.
But I would also suggest that, before we quickly condemn and dismiss the actions of those people as something we would 'never do', we must pause and think…
What it is about those actions that makes us so upset?
What have those people been doing to themselves, before the acted out their darkest impulses and desires?
If we do that, we might found ourselves in need to admit that there is a space in the inner lives of all of us — a ‘gap’, as it has been called, between the selves we know we should be, and the selves we actually are most of the time. And this is what is really scary:
Every time we are silent when we should speak up, or passive when we should act, this gap widens a little, and our deeper selves are compromised a bit more, and driven further down into the dark depths of the soul, making access to them a bit more difficult than previously.
Every time we tell a lie, we not only compromise with the truth — we compromise with own inner selves, our own inner beings…the people we really are, or can be; the people who were born to make a difference in the world by being faithful to the things that are, above all else, totally and fully true.
Every time we feel called upon to bring something different to the world around us — a different point of view or attitude, a painful but needed advice, a difficult conversation with a friend or a colleague — but instead conform to the environment around us, we actually abuse ourselves. We hurt and damage and supress the deepest and best parts of us, the core of our beings, where all love, passion, creativity, and higher calling comes from…
And that brings us to the next point:
Why do we feel bad when we do it?
Why did I always feel bad, for decades, every time I agreed with somebody whose attitudes and actions I did not actually found acceptable?
Why did I always feel low — miserable and dejected — after a night of cheating, vice, pretence and vanity?
Why do most people feel bad about themselves after they do things they know are wrong, or after a failure to do the things they deem right?
I think it is because of who we really are, deep inside. We see it in the eyes of boys who wield their plastic swords and in their daily games, restore peace to an imaginary realm by punishing evil and bringing justice to the oppressed.
But sadly, most of those boys grow out of this, leaving the world somewhat colder and emptier...
And then we decry the tragic, shocking lack of good men in our world today.
''We make men without chest’’ — C. S. Lewis once wrote — ''and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.''
Imagine for a moment how wonderfully light and peaceful you would feel if everything you did and said was in alignment with your deepest self. Imagine the difference you would be able to make — from your own daily pursuits, habits and achievements, to the lives of those around you. Imagine the sense of contentment and even pride you would feel when you look at yourself in the mirror, knowing that you’ve really done your best for the spiritual, mental and physical development of the person on the other side.
Imagine, just imagine it for a moment…
It feels good, doesn’t it?
Yes, this is how heroes live.
Now, I am not suggesting that you rush in to correct everything or everyone around you that you think needs correcting — this is the worst thing you can do! And by the way, if you are on a journey of inner and outer transformation, you must keep this one thing in mind — every good attitude or a strategy has a dark side, a 'shadow'. This shadow-side operates in its most destructive capacity when good things are taken to extremes, or when our subconscious motives are less than wholesome…but this is a whole different subject which I hope to cover separately soon enough.
And so I think the right way is — as Jordan Peterson suggests in his book ‘Twelve Rules for Life’ — to start with...yourself.
Start by correcting the ways in which you know you have cheated on yourself, deprived yourself, or lived in ways which you know are less than what you could've done and been.
For some of us, this might mean getting up every morning and do the things that would bring a sense of structure, wellbeing, and purpose into the rest of our day. Walking, drinking water, reading, writing, praying, swimming, stretching, running — whatever it is that you have been avoiding but you know you need, in order to function better.
For some of us, this might mean finally having that difficult conversation with your daughter, your manager, or your spouse.
For some of us, this might mean not being so quick to agree with those who you have always been too quick to agree with — in your family or work system or other relational context; although I would strongly suggest a process of soul-searching and examination of the fears, inner motives, and even traumas, that have led to a lifestyle of compromise at the first place.
More often than not, at least in my experience, before any actions of change are taken on the outside, a fundamental shift needs to occur on the inside. This of course is not a rule, and inner things can sometimes be shifted by addressing the outer reality first — depending on the individual situation and the person who is looking to make the change…some might actually be released into new lives of freedom and strengthened by such 'actions before feelings' — I have seen that quite a few times in my work; others, however — like so many I have observed — might be broken even more, and driven even deeper into their lives of fear, clinging to safety, and the ‘quiet desperation’ of unfulfilled potential…
Yes, things are not simple or straightforward when it comes to changing decade-old behavioural patterns.
But change can come. I can promise you that. If we decide to engage our ways of compromising that deeper self and its values, desires and aspirations, change can come to us in such a magnificent way, that after some time on this journey of wholeness and truth, we might find ourselves not only tolerating the man who looks at us from the other side of the mirror, but even loving him…
Perhaps even admiring him.
This is my desire for you — to come to such a strong place of self-love, purpose, and truth, that you would not be able to help but love those around you — not under compulsion but because you want to respect them, empower them, and love them ’as you love yourself’!
From such centred and deeply uncompromised life comes all good service to any noble and worthy cause — just look at the men who have changed the world for the better, and you will see this principle at work in their lives. And if you want to see the opposite, look again at the lives of those whose acts of greed, deceit, and murder makes you so angry — but this time, look with understanding, not blind judgement…because if you do that, you might see that the evils on the news are only the end-products of lives that have been lived in constant compromise of that which is good, noble and true.
It is indeed humbling to see how destructive we can be to the world, if we arrive to a position of great power but have lived lives of unfaithfulness to our own selves.
If you want to be of good use to the world around you, you must start by being good to yourself. And to do that, you might need to be ready to do some difficult things.
Trust me, it is well worth it.
With great respect,