I have struggled with what I wanted to say this month as we focus on our internal compass. I do believe that there is pure truth within which we each need to find our truth. I do believe there is an important need to have external principles by which we gauge our choices and form our habits. I cannot accept that each individual has a need to do what they feel is best for them without considering the cost that it asks of loved ones, family, the community, and society. At the same time, I do not believe that conformity is always the best, nor that societal rules are always correct. So where does that leave us? How does a person navigate these complexities? How do we find real truth and be true to ourselves?
I was once in the home of a friend who had a framed wall hanging that read “Before you speak, THINK.” Each letter in THINK spelled out something to consider before speaking. Is it TRUE? Is it HELPFUL? Is it INSPIRING? Is it NECESSARY? Is it KIND? I have often thought about the wisdom in that sign. How much hurt and embarrassment could be avoided if we all followed that suggestion?
This type of test could also be applied to calibrating our internal compass. When we are making a choice, we can consider how it feels in this context. We can take the time to study out our options and move forward confidently as we feel that something is true, helpful, necessary, and kind.
I also believe that part of our internal compass is when we have inspiration to act. Sometimes a thought will come to help someone or do something that may be out of the ordinary or out of our comfort zone. But if the thought is to do something that is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, or kind, we cannot go wrong in following through on it. I remember once when I had a baby who was a few months old, the name of a woman I knew through church kept coming to my mind. I didn’t know her well. I was embarrassed to make assumptions or interfere with personal business by acting on the impression I was getting, but every time I saw my maternity dresses in my closet, I felt that she needed them. One day, I was tired of feeling guilty for ignoring those impressions. I took them down, folded them up, loaded my baby in the stroller, put the dresses in the bottom, and walked to her house. There I stood on her doorstep feeling uncomfortable in the situation, but comforted in doing what I felt I needed to do. She opened the door, and I explained what I had been feeling. She invited me in, and we had a nice visit during which she explained that as her new pregnancy was progressing, she was having a hard time finding clothes to wear for church. She was thankful for my small offering and that I was able to help her. What did I feel as I left that day? Relief that I hadn’t ignored that impression any longer, shame that it had taken me so long, and gratitude for having been able to help.
There is a statement made by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I have often heard quoted and I have used to encourage myself and my children: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do—not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do is increased.” I know from experience that this is true. I also know that it works for both the good and the bad in our lives. I believe that we can each have inspiration to find what is true. I believe we are naturally drawn to things that are good and right initially. When we continue in pursuing things that are good, practicing listening to that inner compass that leads to things that are true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind, we will become better at hearing that inner voice, we will see more clearly what we can do to help. Conversely, if we persist in ignoring the thoughts that come that would lead to good, if we choose to turn away from truth, if we pursue things that bring momentary pleasure over that which is right but may be hard, then we can become desensitized to our inner compass and begin to believe that happiness is actually found in false realities.
Just as using a compass for navigation requires an idea of where we are wanting to go, we must have a goal for life in mind so as to not aimlessly chase after the next popular idea, the easy and fun but unfulfilling. A life of purpose may require sacrifice and practice, but it is the life that is fulfilling and most joyful.