There is a perennial theme that weaves its way throughout all wisdom teachings: we human beings have come to believe that the ability to hide a limitation is the same as having transcended it. Of course, this is a lot like thinking that if we close our eyes the stalking tiger won’t see us! And we all know how that turns out!
But lying to ourselves about our present nature, and how it drives us to act against ourselves (and others) is no solution…nnot to mention how much work it takes to keep up a false front. It’s exhausting! The lies keep piling up, as does the anxiety we feel for the fear of being found out. Of course, all of this is unconscious to us, so while we feel this kind anxiety, we don’t know the real reason why we do. Instead we blame circumstances or other people, and that ruins relationships and makes the situation even worse.
But perhaps the most serious result of self-lying is that it keeps us from learning the truth that sets us free: we have the capacity to realize another, higher order of consciousness that can’t act against itself. We can be transformed into truer, happier people. But the first step in that transformation is agreeing to see the truth of ourselves… as we are. And if we won’t take that first step, our relationship with life just can’t get any better.
Here are some messages of truth that come to us from different cultures and from across the centuries that show how universal these important lessons are…
He who knows others is wise;
He who knows himself is enlightened.
— Lao Tse (604 B.C.E.)
Peter of Damascus assures us that “nothing is better than to realize one’s weakness and ignorance, and nothing is worse than not to be aware of them.”
— Philokalia (300)
The first step to self-knowledge is self-distrust. Nor can we attain to any kind of knowledge, except by a like process.
— Diogenes (415)
Of all knowledge the wise and good seek most to know themselves.
— William Shakespeare (1564)
Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when every one has to throw off his mask? Do you believe that life will always let itself be mocked? Do you think you can slip away a little before midnight in order to avoid this? Or are you not terrified by it? I have seen men in real life who so long deceived others that at last their true nature could not reveal itself… In every man there is something which to a certain degree prevents him from becoming perfectly transparent to himself; and this may be the case in so high a degree, he may be so inexplicably woven into relationships of life which extend far beyond himself that he almost cannot reveal himself. But he who cannot reveal himself cannot love, and he who cannot love is the most unhappy man of all.
— Soren Kierkegaard (1813)
The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him.
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821)
If men could see their true position and could understand all the horror of it, they would be unable to remain where they are even for one second. They would begin to seek a way out and they would quickly find it, because there is a way out, but men fail to see it simply because they are hypnotized.
— P. D. Ouspensky (1878)
Enter yourself, let self-honesty turn you in the right direction, after which self-awareness lives your life for you. Wishing for something other than darkness is already a bit of light. Have no fear of exposing the illusion that your present world is a false world, for the end of the old reveals the new. Change starts with even the dim realization of being betrayed by our own faulty thoughts. Self-renewal occurs spontaneously when habitual thoughts are dropped. Few people realize how little truth they can take, but those who do will become new.
— Vernon Howard (1918)
How to Use the Truth That Sets You Free
These writers and teachers who warn us of the need to be more honest with ourselves also share helpful guidance for working with our discoveries to invite the beautiful process of transformation. You can find much more of their wisdom on the OneJourney website. Take some time to browse this rich resource.
Do you have a quote from your own tradition that speaks of the need to be honest with ourselves, and how such honesty leads to the transformation we long for? If so, please click here to submit it to the OneJourney Living Book.
Dr. Ellen Dickstein
The OneJourney Project