By Robert George
My advice to my students is the same as my advice to myself–and to everyone: Seek the truth. Speak the truth as best you understand it. Do not permit yourself to be bullied into silence. Do not allow yourself to be shamed into saying things you don’t believe or expressing yourself inauthentically–by, for example, embracing movements or endorsing slogans about which you have reservations. Do not let fear of the mob or lust for acceptance or applause–or the desire to get ahead–dictate what you say and don’t say.
When you feel the temptation to “go along to get along,” resist it. (You may find the words “get thee behind me, Satan” helpful.)
Do what you think is right, with (as Lincoln said) “firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” But do not immunize your views and actions from criticism. Remind yourself–often–of your own fallibility. Engage those who do not share your views and be open to their questions and challenges. Respect others and do not let disagreement destroy friendships or prevent them from being formed.
Do not demonize thoughtful people–you will find there are many–who arrive at conclusions different from yours on important questions. It is possible that they are right, or partially right, and your view should be abandoned or revised. Avoid wrapping your emotions so tightly around your convictions that you become a dogmatist. Try your best to avoid looking at things through an ideological lens or some particular narrative. Otherwise you will interpret everything you “see” as reinforcing what you already believe. Examine things from different angles and perspectives. Don’t allow yourself to grow so deeply attached to your opinions that you favor them over truth itself. Falling in love with your opinions will blind you to truth. Contrary to popular belief, a self-critical spirit does not induce paralysis. Strive to be your own best critic.
Think for yourself. Never outsource that job. Shun conformism and groupthink. In fact, learn to shudder when you see them. They are the road to Hell. Don’t be a knee-jerk contrarian. Don’t be a knee-jerk anything. But remember that the crowd is often wrong. History is replete with examples–tragic ones.
Bear constantly in mind that though misfortune or evildoers can take nearly everything else from you, they cannot take something inestimably precious: your integrity. That is something entirely in your hands and under your control. If it is lost, it is because you gave it up. Hold onto it tightly; never yield it.
Teach your children well.