I've had today's topic waiting to be written for over a month now. It was something that I'd heard said in two different ways over the course of a couple of days. I think both of them came from Humans of New York, actually.
I usually like to wait for things to happen in threes. I've always thought once means nothing special, twice becomes interesting and three times is an all-out message from the universe. But lately a few things have happened just twice and I've felt like the second time was a message. So maybe I'm catching on to things faster these days.
Anyway, the first thing was a question—"do you hold yourself to your own standards?"
And the second thing was from a philosophy professor HONY photographed. They asked, "If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?" And he answered, "Never make an exception of yourself...People like to make exceptions of themselves. They hold other people to moral codes that they aren't willing to follow themselves. For example, people tend to think that if they tell a lie, it's because it was absolutely necessary. But if someone else tells a lie, it means they're dishonest. So never make an exception of yourself. If you're a thief, don't complain about being robbed."
About a month ago, I wrote a blog about spiritual adulthood. In that blog, I defined spiritual adulthood as having three core components—awareness of yourself and your own consistencies and inconsistencies, personal responsibility and the ability to fess up to your consistencies and inconsistencies, and the will to break free from the kinds of behaviors and attitudes that put distance between you and your higher self.
Living up to your own standards and not making an exception of yourself are spiritually adult things to do. It means that when you see your own inconsistencies or hypocrisies, that you check yourself and realign your behavior. And maybe realigning means to change your course and act within your own standards and maybe it means seeing where your standards are too strict and unrealistic for you at the present time.
One of the hardest parts about being on a path toward your higher self, spirit self, Christ self, enlightenment...whatever you want to call it...is that you have to keep your eyes open to your own inconsistencies. If you expect flawless loyalty from your friends, you'd better be flawlessly loyal and not make an exception out of yourself. If you expect secrecy from someone, you'd better not share their secrets with anyone, no matter what you tell yourself to make it ok. And if you're someone who's not adverse to confronting others with their truths, then you have to take your medicine when others are honest with you.
Whatever you want to call it—standards, rules, or "just the kind of person I am"—you have to be big enough to take it when it comes back to you. In fact, if you're really spiritually mature, you have to be grateful when it comes back to you. Because it's showing you a place of inconsistency you haven't been able to see yourself...it's pointing you in the direction of growth.
I remember this whole idea of "holding yourself to your own standards" really kind of smacking me in the face when it first occurred to me many years ago. I was actually kind of a missing puzzle piece I needed at the time to move forward. And while I can't remember the exact circumstances, I know I eased up some on a few my more rigid expectations, partly because I wasn't ready to live up to them and partly because, even if I was, it was a lot to expect from other people at the time. And it never occurred to me until I thought to ask the question.
It doesn't hurt to check in on that from time to time, either. Whereas a number of years back, the expectations I had of some friends was too high even for myself, those expectations would be fully within reason today, because as I've grown, so has the maturity of my friends. And let's not forget to look at the places the bar is set too low, too. If everyone around you is constantly disappointing you, for example, you either have the bar set too high or too low.
Like most everything else on the spiritual path, living to your own standards can be more of a journey than a destination. I think some people manage to find balance there—more than in other hotspots along the spiritual path—but for many, there are too many layers of that onion to peel in a single lifetime. But it's worth trying, because being aware of and cleaning out that area of your consciousness is integral to mapping the right path. After all, you have to know who you are, what you're capable of and where you want to go before you can set out successfully on your journey.