By Bill Harley
The title sentence is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, and poet. What he actually wrote is “Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” This was written in the 19th Century, but it is highly relevant to us in the 21st. Emerson seems to be saying that people’s being and doing attributes tell more about who they are than what they say. In other words, talk is cheap if it does not align with who you are being and what you are doing in your life.
Authenticity in a human is characterized by harmonious alignment in a person’s being, doing and speakingattributes—all three convey the same thing about the quality of the person. Put another way, authenticity means that our deeds and words agree; and that our outward behavior mirrors our inner life. This kind of harmonious alignment is very rare in today’s world, which contributes to the distrust, lethargy and disunity that infuse societies. The world is in crying need of less inauthenticity, hypocrisy and duplicity.
Granted, moving from inauthenticity to total authenticity as a person is probably a life-long task. But moving consistently and expeditiously in this direction is within reach for us all. However, it is only possible when a person’s true self or higher nature is leading their being, doing and speaking; and the true self can only do this when it is aligned with the true purposes of life.
For example, one of the three ultimate purposes of life is to know and love the Creator. The human heart by its very nature seeks to attach to something. If your heart attaches to worldly things, your lower nature (rather than your true self) is invigorated and you start to mirror forth worldly qualities such as acquisitiveness, competitiveness, and preoccupation with transitory things. The energy of your lower nature prevents you from fulfilling the purpose of knowing and loving your Creator and leads to misalignments between your doing, being and saying—you become increasingly inauthentic. For example, you may espouse a lofty social or spiritual principle, but those around you easily see that your behavior contradicts what you say.
On the other hand, if your heart attaches to spiritual things—to learning to know and love the Creator—your true self or higher nature is invigorated and you start to mirror forth spiritual qualities such as detachment, collaboration, integrity, purity of heart and independence of spirit. The energy of your true self leads to increasing alignment between your doing, being and saying—you become increasingly authentic. For example, you may espouse a lofty social or spiritual principle, and those around you easily see that your behavior aligns with what you say. In the context of Emerson’s maxim, what you are speaks so loudly that it adds great impact to what you are saying. And this, in turn, helps you fulfill another one of the three ultimate purposes of life: to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.
Jean’s and my first book—Now That I’m Here, What Should I Be Doing?—explains in much greater detail how to achieve this alignment and better fulfill the three ultimate purposes of life.