Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Is Integrity?

One of our New Dream volunteers shared with me that she has been considering this question lately, and she thought it would make a good topic of exploration at New Dream. I agreed.

She said she began her examination of integrity from the perspective of upholding certain moral beliefs, but ultimately found this to be too narrow a definition. She then found herself leaning more toward the perspective of living in alignment with what you believe.

In contemplating the concept of integrity, she is in good company. Consider some of the following thoughts about integrity. Most of these quotes are courtesy of: http://blog.gaiam.com/quotes/topics/integrity. Perhaps one of them speaks to your heart and mind. (Of course, where men are referenced, the concepts apply equally well for women.)

The voice within is what I'm married to. All marriage is a metaphor for that marriage. My lover is the place inside me where an honest yes and no come from. That's my true partner. It's always there. And to tell you yes when my integrity says no is to divorce that partner.
—Byron Katie

To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice. —Confucius

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got. —Janis Joplin

Better to keep yourself clean and bright. You are the window through which you must see the world. —George Bernard Shaw

Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this, it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful. Whoever doesn't know it must learn and find by experience that a quiet conscience makes one strong. —Anne Frank

The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out. —Thomas Babington Macaulay

Integrity -- Take the harder right over the easier wrong. —Kelly Perdew

The only correct actions are those that demand no explanation and no apology.
—Red Auerbach

Forcing yourself to think happy lies doesn't heal your dreams. Getting to the truth does. —Martha Beck

With integrity you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt. With fear and guilt removed you are free to be and do your best. —Zig Ziglar

There comes a time in your life when you have to let go of the life you planned and live the life you were meant to live. —Unknown

As you can see integrity has many faces. We value integrity when someone tells the truth, even if that truth is uncomfortable. We know integrity when someone hears their calling and follows it in dedicated faith and trust. We experience integrity when someone’s actions are in alignment with their beliefs, even if their actions are choices we would not have made. We honor integrity when someone fulfills their contract for this lifetime, especially if the challenges were great and the cost was high.

Living in integrity is not always easy. In fact, it can be downright challenging. But as Alexander the Great reminds us: Upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all. We might think those little slips, when we lack integrity, don’t matter in the larger picture, but they do. We know when we are acting outside of our integrity and that choice typically results in regret and guilt.

Regret and guilt can lead to all kinds of disruptive behaviors, as we try to cover up what we are really feeling. We pretend things are okay, but act aggressively or passive aggressively toward others as our inner frustrations look for ways to express. We become physically ill as the regrets and guilt eat at our emotional core. We make excuses for choices we regret, so that we won’t have to face the inner pain. Ultimately, living out of integrity costs us our happiness, and affects the lives of those whose lives we touch.

While living in integrity can be challenging, it is not necessarily more challenging than living outside of our integrity. For example, working a job you don’t like takes a toll on you. That job is probably not fully in alignment with your purpose and calling. That said, you might feel you need to do this job for now in order to create and maintain income in this challenged economy.

Are you honoring the integrity of your spiritual contract by creating a plan, or following your intuitive guidance, to move you into a career that is in greater alignment with your purpose? Are you making sure you are doing something to fulfill your soul’s contract to make a real difference in this world?

The soul needs alignment—alignment with your truth, purpose, beliefs and feelings. That is why it is so important to keep yourself clean and bright as George Bernard Shaw suggests.

When you are feeling particularly challenged in regard to your integrity, you might find it helpful to consider a role model. Who models integrity for you? Is there someone famous or someone close to you that you perceive lives in his or her integrity with great love and impeccability?

Do you have someone in your life that lovingly holds you accountable for your words and actions? If you don’t, consider if there is someone in your life that you trust enough that you would allow them to hold you accountable in a kind, yet honest manner.

Allowing yourself to recognize and incorporate the wisdom of role models that touches your heart, and allowing yourself held accountable for your intentions are two ways in which an individual enhances their lives as a person of deep integrity. When you are ready to incorporate these two elements in the development of your personal integrity, spiritual practice expands from desire into fulfillment. And so our volunteer, like many of you perhaps, is probably ready for greater fulfillment, as she chooses to explore the meaning of integrity in her life.