Do you remember high school English? Remember studying Hamlet? Remember the character Polonius (he was Ophelia’s father), and how he spent a whole scene spouting off advice to his son, Laertes? He offered up such gems as:
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be”
(hah! how true that one is these days…), and
“To thine own self be true”
I was amazed, even back in grade 13 (I went to school in Ontario, and I’m old, and we did have a legitimate grade 13 back then) at how many of the witticisms I’d heard in my own life that could be attributed not only to Shakespeare but also, specifically to Hamlet and, indeed, Polonius.
Now, Polonius is not exactly the most savoury of characters – he is a sneaky old spy and ultimately gets killed for it. But: he is a doting father and despite his tendency to lurk behind the odd arras, he offers some solid advice to his children. If only they had taken it!
But that’s enough Shakespeare for today. I really started this post as a tribute to the Polonius-like gems that my Mom has offered to me and my sisters over the years, because I passed one along to a friend earlier today, and she actually called to thank me for it later!
So this evening the friend called to thank me for the advice I had given her, which was, essentially: I don’t recommend keeping secrets. Someone always eventually finds out and then you’ve hurt them a lot worse than if you had just told them the truth in the first place. So when she thanked me, I replied (giving credit where credit’s due): “my Mom is always right: honesty really
is the best policy”.
And then added another literary
embellishment, this one courtesy Sir Walter Scott (which my Mom is also famous for saying):
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive”
Which I personally think is one of the best pieces of advice EVER.
And it all got me thinking about how many of these maxims my own Mom is famous (in our family, anyway) for offering me and my sisters. For certain she has urged, “to thine own self be true” (especially during adolescence), and when as teenagers we bemoaned our status on the popularity totem pole, or during university discovered social injustice, or as young moms couldn’t convince our babies to sleep through the night, she’d offer us a generous listening ear and then she’d reassure us that:
“‘Twas ever thus”
And then she’d urge us to
“Keep your chin up”
Which might sound simplistic but is somehow remarkably encouraging.