As we sat chatting, catching up with each other, having just returned from being away for the holidays, we each took our turn in sharing what had transpired in our lives over the past few weeks. Stories, laughs, frustrations, memories. All came pouring forth as each took our turn. For some reason, the conversation took a shift at some point. I don’t remember when or how.
“He isn’t what he seems,” said one of my friends. And the room grew quiet. I was saddened to hear it. But it reminded me of a situation I recalled from my past and felt led to share. I expressed how a colleague of mine had been in contact a few years back with a well known celebrity that appears “wholesome”, “good”, “kind.” But I could not forget that co-worker’s words one sunny afternoon as we discussed the notable individual, “He’s not what he seems,” came the somber reply . I was truly surprised, and dismayed.
Having finished reading David McCullough’s 1776 in November, and now half way through his John Adams, I was truly surprised when I caught the tidbit about Benjamin Franklin that I had not remembered hearing in history class back in school. “…his illegitimate son William Franklin became the last Loyalist governor of New Jersey. Faithful to the British crown, the son left New York along with the British troops, and settled in England — never to return.” I was stunned. This father of our American Revolution had fathered a child out of wed lock who not only turned to the “other side” but rejected his native homeland.
It was interesting even more so, in that, I truly was intrigued by the 13 Virtues that Franklin had penned at the tender age of 20 (in 1726). You may recall them. I list them here:
- “TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
- “SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
- “ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
- “RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
- “FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
- “INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
- “SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
- “JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
- “MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
- “CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
- “TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
- “CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
- “HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
But my thoughts weren’t on Franklin as my friends and I relived our holiday vacations for each other. The statement “He’s not what he seems,” stuck with me. I truly hope I can become and remain the person who is what I seem to be. I want to be real to my friends and my colleagues. Not a character that I create and wish to portray. But the real deal.
As we begin this new year, are you what YOU seem, my friend? Do you have one persona in public, but live out another in private? Do you work hard on an image, but find yourself a dichotomy when you step behind your front door? It’s something to chew on – perhaps.
Just my thoughts,