Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. – Psalm 17:4-5 (NIV)
“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.”
This sage advice, lifted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is far too often overlooked and neglected. Our instincts are usually to play to the crowds and the cameras. Validation from the public is often the most important validation that many of us seek. Public approval is a tremendous ego-booster.
What we often forget is that self-examination is much more critical than the critique of others. When cameras are off and when crowds have dispersed, we must still live with ourselves. And if our lives are to be enhanced by any decent degree of personal peace, we must even come to like ourselves.
The self-esteem of the psalmist was not dependent upon the observations and conclusions of others. Before the verdicts of peers and pundits were issued, the psalmist did the tough work of self-examination. The intense work of self-reflection. The sobering work of self-critique.
Personal integrity is the key to every right relationship. Without it, we are estranged, disconnected and at enmity with ourselves. Such self-contradictions can only contort our relationships with others.
Noted American philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, said: “We are punished by our sins, not for them.” Sin’s damage is felt first and foremost in the life of the sinner … if that sinner ever sees the need to reconcile conduct with conscience.
Lord, show me myself. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Decatur, Georgia.