Commentary, People

Jim Gray: Is it Good Advice to ‘Be Yourself’?

Mark Twain once supposedly said that “Be Yourself” is not good advice for many people. Yes, in most regards each of us, as adults, has the Liberty to act as we wish, as long as that does not wrongly affect the abilities of others to do the same. But how do we act with that Liberty?

The great UCLA basketball coach Johnny Wooden once said, “Character is how we act when no one else is looking.” So, every once in a while, it should be helpful for each of us to pause and reflect upon how we act with that Liberty.

In other words, what really is our character? How do we act when no one else is looking? Is that the person we wish to be?

Many people have concluded that the greatest thing in life is not power, love, wealth or success. It is gratification. Not the short-term shallow stuff, but deep down. We can receive gratification by being involved with power, love, and so forth. But they are not ends in themselves.

For example, worshipping the false god of materialism, i.e., the religion of “My yacht is bigger than your yacht,” is ultimately unsatisfying. You can always find somebody with a bigger yacht!

Instead, gratification can come from anonymous acts for family, friends or society in general that help to make the world a better place. The areas in which we can make these contributions are almost boundless: We live in the greatest country the world has ever seen and at the most exciting time, and we have so many opportunities to expand our knowledge, experiences, relationships and contributions.

So think of the small and large acts of kindness that each of us can do – every day in our normal lives. Not only will that bring gratification to us and often to others, it will also demonstrate a character of which we can be proud.

(Photo of Johnny Wooden by Associated Students of UCLA used with permission.)

Judge James P. Gray (Ret.) was a judge on the Superior Court of Orange County, California for 25 years, and was the running mate of Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential contest, as well as the Libertarian Party’s 2004 candidate for the United States Senate in California. The author of multiple books and a play, he is a critic of current American drug laws.

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