1938 Original Manuscript for 1939 1st Edition BigBook Searchable 1976 3rd Edition BigBook On-Line
The Prescription
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“To thine own self be true…..”

I was asked today, Feb 20, 2007, how did the phrase “To thine own self be true ....” come to be one of our favorite cliches in A.A.?? How is it the cornerstone of “"Rigorous Honesty"??

Where or how it started in AA as far as I know is lost to history. But, for an understanding of its implications, the following is offered ....

Most of us are unknowingly familiar with the above quote taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the words of the character Polonius to his son Laertes, reading it on our AA anniversary medallions, but how many of us know these lines of the verse: “And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou can not then be false to any man.”

Unless we can be true to ourselves first, we cannot be true to others.

To thine own self be true .... how profound. How many of us have a hard time being true to ourselves? Those of us that have given our life to another at the cost of losing who we are in the process will have a hard time being true to ourselves. Allowing someone or something else to define who we are, we lose our ability to discover and grow inwardly. We no longer are able to discern a truth from a lie. For many of us, we have accepted lies for so long, that finding out what is true takes time. Having done this very thing, I know how difficult the journey to self-discovery can be.

Truth….truth is a word that brings out such negative reactions to many of us. You see, truth is really an action word. You cannot accept truth without change. Accepting truth about ourselves is difficult, especially to those of us who have been abused, or have abused others. But truth does set one free if we will allow it to; it is a crucial part of healing. It gives us the freedom to be who we are. We are able to come to terms with our weakness (without condemnation) and appreciate our strength. Truth gives strength; it naturally builds healthy boundaries. Truth is open; it is honest even at the risk of being vulnerable again. Truth is light and brings forth life. When we walk in truth, we walk in light, and when we walk in light, we live a healthy life.

Truth is also love. The greatest act of love towards another is living a life that is truthful. For those of us who find it difficult to love ourselves, we will find it will come more easily when we walk in truth about who we are. If we walk in truth, we walk in perfect love, and if we walk in perfect love, then we do not walk in fear because perfect love casts out fear. Because we have been honest with ourselves, we are able to love ourselves with all of our imperfections, knowing that we are in “process” and therefore need not have others' approval. This is freedom indeed.

The second part of this verse is a natural occurrence if we hold true to the first part of the verse. So, when in doubt as to our motives of not being truthful with someone .... look inside, are we being less than truthful to ourselves, have we slighted the steps in some manner?

”This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

          - Shakespeare - Hamlet -

Love and Peace, Barefoot

Index of AA History Pages on Barefoot's Domain

As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of AA with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In AA and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!

ABC Page 60 from the Big Book



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