Development of Personality
Sense of Beauty and Sincerity
Personality is the secret of the whole life, and in the development of personality it is not necessary that the psychic or occult sides should develop first, the beginning of development is natural. There are two things needful in the development of personality: The sense of beauty and the preservation of sincerity. The sense of beauty can be defined as the adoption of all that appears beautiful in thought, speech or action. For generally man appreciates all that is beautiful in another person, but he overlooks the lack of beauty in his own thought, speech and action. For instance a person would appreciate the respectful, humble gentle attitude of another towards himself, but he often overlooks his own lack of this attitude towards another. There are two reasons for this. One reason is that man always looks outward, not inward, and he sees another person before he sees himself. The other reason is that man is selfish by nature; he wants all that is good for himself, and he hardly gives a thought to giving these things to another. Man is ignorant of the fact that life is naturally a re-echo: What one gives he must take back sooner or later, and it is ignorance of this fact that makes man inconsiderate. Therefore to a sensitive person life all around seems nothing but thorns. But he does not expect thorns, he expects roses. That shows that his soul is longing for what is good and beautiful. And man pities himself, but instead of pitying others, he blames them. If he only knew that others are just as much to be pitied as he! But not everyone thinks of the pain and suffering of another. As soon as man in his life begins trying to forget his troubles and think of the troubles of others, he has taken his first step in saintliness. Rose and thorn are the outcome of the same plant and come from the same root. Saint and sinner both come from one source, God, the Father of the whole humanity. It is only that the beauty, fragrance and color in the root have expressed themselves in the rose, and have not expressed themselves in the thorn. The difference between the plant and the human being is free will. A human being cannot make the excuse, I was born a thorn, how can I become a rose? As a human being has his free will, he is responsible if he is a thorn, and it is to his credit if he is a rose. Man must know that as the color, fragrance and beauty are hidden in the root, so goodness and beauty both spring from the same source. The quality which shone in the life of the Master shines still and will ever shine. What attracts friends is not necessarily power, property, and beauty; what really can attract man is personality. Now, the other question of personality - sincerity - that is necessary to be considered in the development of personality. There are many people who, in order to behave nicely, polish their manner and speech. But polish is not necessarily effective, or the effective thing in a person. Beauty is that which penetrates through and through; and the greater the beauty, the greater the penetration. What is called manner - which is only manner - is not a deep thing, it is almost a play. Every thought, speech, or action has in it a psychic power which makes an impression on another, and the psychic power comes from the true divine essence in man. No doubt, in the name of sincerity, people often express their lack of the sense of beauty, saying, I am a frank person, I tell the truth and I don't mind how you take it. This shows that sincerity void of the sense of beauty is lack of balance, and beauty void of sincerity is lack of balance also. As music depends upon rhythm and tone, so personality depends on the sense of beauty and sincerity.
The Jarring Effect of the Ego of Another
By a keen outlook on life we find that what disturbs us most in life is the ego of another person; it is the ego that has a jarring effect upon life. Those who know the right manner of developing personality know that the first lesson in life is to efface that ego as much as possible. Christ says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." That poorness in spirit is the softening of the ego. When the ego is softened in a person then in the thought, speech, and action of that person there is a charm. Sometimes a person, after going through a disillusionment, suffering, torture, shows in his personality some charm, and that charm has come from the softening of the ego. But any virtue that develops naturally, forced by life or circumstances, is not a virtue in the same sense as that which has been developed through one's own effort. Every beautiful action, thought or speech is derived from the effacing of self, or ego. For instance, every manner of courtesy comes from holding the reins of the ego. Beauty of speech always depends on the same effacement of the self, and so it is with thought. As soon as the ego expresses itself without control it hurts the ego of another person. The tendency in the lower creatures to fight is caused only by the ego, and man has this tendency no less than they, but rather more. It is this tendency which brings about disturbances in the life of individuals and in the multitude. The family feuds in ancient times, and now wars, all come from the same source, the ego. The idea of self-denial in Christianity, if rightly considered, expressed the idea of effacement rather than that of renunciation. Those whose contact brings us comfort, ease, peace, always have a softened ego. The greater the person the finer the ego. No example can be better than that of Christ washing the feet of his disciples. What builds man's ego is every kind of gratification of the ego, and what breaks the ego is patience and renunciation. The question whether it would be advisable to so destroy the ego that others might take advantage of a refined person is answered by saying that it is not necessary that one should work against the ego, but one must control it. It would not be exaggerated if I said that man's worst enemy is his ego, his own ego. And when it is not under his control man's thought, speech and action are bent towards the gratification of his ego, and the more he satisfies his ego the more his ego desires, and it is never satisfied. Nobody else has such power in life of enslaving a man as his own ego. Man is, in fact, from the divine essence, and being so, he has the right to be king of his own life, which is his own kingdom. By the gratification of the ego man falls from kingship into slavery, and in the end his own life becomes a burden to himself. And in order to gain his own kingdom he must destroy the illusion that in satisfying his ego he shows his power; he satisfies his enemy in satisfying his ego. A Persian poet says, "Each time that I make peace with my enemy he has the opportunity of preparing again for the struggle." The great battle that the Sufis and sages and Yogis fight is the battle with the ego, but the sage battles with his own ego, the ordinary man with other people's egos. And the difference in the result of these two battles is that the victory and the failure of the ordinary man are momentary, but the victory of the sage is eternal. The former, when they have finished one battle, must begin another, but the latter, once he has succeeded, is victorious. All that the former gains, after all, is not his own, because his kingdom is not his own; all he gains does not belong to him, but the sage is king in his own kingdom.
(from: Hazrat Inayat Khan: The Gathas, Morals)