Don’t wait to speak your own convictions

The other day, a friend of mine shared something gripping on which he has been reflecting lately. He said, “You don’t want to hear your deepest convictions from someone else for the first time; say it yourself.”

I was really taken by this idea — that it’s a shame to hear your own deepest convictions and insights spoken aloud by someone else before you have had the courage and boldness to speak them yourself.

My friend told me that he found this idea in an 1841 essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The next day, I read the essay and here’s the crucial section to which he alluded:

To believe our own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,–and our first thought, is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment.

[…]

Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

While Emerson goes a bit far in making the point, the essay is an emboldening appeal to self-reliance instead of conformity and to an acceptance of being misunderstood in order to live a genuine an authentic existence.

Recently, I have spent some time in the company of persons who are true non-conformists and it has been exhilarating. Indeed, such persons seem more alive than others.

What is something you believe deeply but are resisting saying aloud?

What difference would it make in your soul and in the world if you said it?

Leave a Reply