“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
-Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3
Because of you, this has been the best year of my life. On your first birthday, here are a few words of advice to carry with you as you grow up. I pray they’ll serve you well.
Be True To The Person God Created You To Be
You are loved. Period. By God the most, and by me and your mom as unconditionally as we know how. So you need not spend your life seeking the approval of others. You already have the unconditional support of those whose approval should mean the most to you. I hope others will approve of who you are and what you do in life–and you’ll share that hope one day–but approval-seeking should never be your aim.
God has placed a divine spark in you and paired that spark with unique abilities. Be true to THAT rather than what others might want or expect from you. You’ll know when you’re being true to the unique character of your God-given purpose; there will be no mistaking it. You’ll also know when you’re not.
You Are Infinitely Capable
As abilities and talents develop in you, they will give you far-reaching opportunities to do and be almost anything you desire. As you grow into a man, the reaches of your potential will sometimes feel like a burden. Bear that burden gracefully. It will also be your greatest gift.
Don’t shrink from your giftedness. Develop your talents with gusto. Maintain a competitive drive to strive for excellence. Explore your abilities in many different directions. There’s nothing quite as attractive—and rare—in another person as genuine well-roundedness.
You Are Also Capable of Wasting Your Talent
No matter how talented you become, diligence, hard work, responsibility and perseverance will be required to succeed. The world never gives up its treasures easily. So never confuse your talent with accomplishment, because, I promise you, no one else will.
There is great joy in giving complete expression to your giftedness; but there is also great risk involved. Don’t be afraid of the risks required to give full use to your abilities. Particularly don’t be afraid of failure. Boats weren’t made to sit in the harbor. Neither were you.
No One Is Better Than You
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I would add, “Don’t let anyone treat you as inferior more than once.” The world is large enough to avoid those kinds of people. You are a bearer of God’s image. Always treat yourself with that thought in mind and require that others do the same.
You Aren’t Better Than Anybody Else
Never regard anyone as beneath you or as in any way less deserving of dignity and respect than you are. Behavior, achievement, wealth, and station in life have absolutely nothing to do with the worth of a person. Every person on this earth, regardless of their circumstances, has been created with their own unique, divine spark just as you have been. And each face you meet represents an equal and infinitely valuable part of the image of God.
While most men seek to walk through life as if they were princes in a sea of peasants, you should endeavor to live your life as if you were a peasant in a sea of kings. In so doing, you will be the greatest of them all.
Whatever happens between now and the end of time, never forget that I love you, that I’m cheering for you, and that I’ll always be your biggest fan.
But, this above all: to thine own self be true.
And one bonus tip: fall in love with music—all kinds. The right music makes almost everything better.