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:

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Deathly urgent

Lately, I have been reflecting on how thinking about my death gives me greater urgency to say ‘yes’ to things.

It is easy to say, “Not yet,” “Not now,” “I’m not ready,” “I need more education,” “I need more authority,” “I need more time,” etc., etc.

I realize that, so many times, I am tempted to say ‘no’ to good and worthwhile endeavours simply because they demand audacity.

But then, when I consider that I will die, it gives me the courage to say yes to these things instead.

Mortality is motivational.

Here’s a video very much in this vein with a great ending about what makes human life “very good.”

Heschel: “Prepare a spiritual income for old age”

There is a marvellous little essay called “To Grow in Wisdom” in Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence.

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Have you tried something at which you could fail lately?

I find it striking that palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware found the top regret of the dying patients she encountered to be, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Today I have been reflecting on the reasons for why this might be. Is it because others’ expectations are in real tension with our own? Or, is it because the expectations of others are so apparent to us and we do not actually know ourselves well enough to have expectations of our own?

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