For most of my adult life, I have considered integrity to be one of my core values. And my understanding of it seems to grow deeper and deeper through the years. In this last blog of 2013 (I will be back in January) I would like to share some of these thoughts and invite you to share yours.
To me, integrity has always meant being true to my word, being congruent. Do what I say and say what I do. Keep my promises and only make promises I can keep. Treat other people as I would have them treat me. I tried my best to stay true to this image – and sometimes I succeeded. And when I failed, I learned to forgive myself, again and again.
Gradually, as I found myself sometimes having to leave situations that no longer felt congruent to my beliefs, a new layer of meaning to the word integrity emerged. Integrity has come to mean staying true to my deepest beliefs and convictions. Even if it is necessary to break a promise I once thought I would keep. As I grow and develop as an individual, I sometimes must let go of things that no longer feel true to the path my life is taking.
And so a whole new complexity evolved to this word. Integrity came to mean stripping away illusions to get to the truth of things. Speaking the truth, no matter how much it hurts me to do so. Speaking it to others with mindfulness and love. If I do this in the right way, I can only hurt their pride, not their soul.
However, this opens up a new layer of understanding. Because, sometimes I’m wrong, dead wrong even. Sometimes, what I perceive to be the truth is yet another illusion, an illusion I created for myself to feel comfortable about myself. And so integrity has come to mean stepping out of my comfort-zone and admitting that the truth is always more complex and challenging than I would want it to be. It means freeing myself of judgment, not allowing myself to interpret other peoples’ actions to serve my own peace of mind. Integrity means to stand naked in the eye of the storm and refuse to go for shelter.
And so I have learned to take this one step at a time, one choice at a time, learning as I go. Releasing old convictions and embracing new ones.
I would welcome any thoughts you have on this matter and I wish you all a joyous and insightful holiday season and an inspired 2014!