Integrity

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attenpts at being you, they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” (Wade Davis)

“The best in art and life comes from a center – something urgent and powerful, an idea or emotion that insists on its being. From that insistence, a shape emerges and creates its structure out of passion. If you begin with a structure, you have to make up the passion, and that’s very hard to do.” (Roger Rosenblatt)

“Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our days will become.” ( John O’Donohue)

“Poetry may make us . . . a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.”
T. S. Eliot, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1948

“Whether we try to enter into a dislocated world, relate to a convulsive generation, or speak to a dying man, our service will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which we speak.” ~ Henri Nouwen in “The Wounded Healer”

“Meister Eckhart radically revises the whole notion of spiritual programs. He says that there is no such thing as a spiritual journey. If a little shocking, this is refreshing. If there were a spiritual journey, it would be only a quarter inch long, though many miles deep. It would be a swerve into rhythm with your deeper nature and presence. The wisdom here is so consoling. You do not have to go away outside yourself to come into real conversation with your soul and with the mysteries of the spiritual world. The eternal is at home — within you.” (John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: a Book of Celtic Wisdom)

‎”Appear As You Are,
Be As You Appear”
-JaLaL-UD-Din Rumi-

Who am I?

Am I who I say I am?

Am I who they say I am?

Am I who I think I am?

Each of us have an inner life and an outer life. Visible and invisible. To what extent do they match? To what extent are they both seen in me? Seen by others… and by myself???

“When we reconnect who we are with what we do, we approach our lives and our work with renewed passion, commitment, and integrity.” (Center for Courage and Renewal)

I’m a bit intimidated by writing about integrity. I don’t hear it talked about much these days. So often we use it without clear definition. What is my reason behind taking on a thing that is so deep and complex? Well, I know it is very deep. The deeper I drill down, the deeper I find it to be. But is it complex? I’m not sure. Maybe there is such simplicity in integrity that I miss the mark.

Regardless, I write not because I understand this thing called integrity… but to understand. Bear with me as I work this out. I also write not just to write, not because it has been a while and is time to write. I write because I’m compelled to write. This compulsion stands in stark contrast to personal choice and self determination. There is a greater force at work that pushes me forward, pulls me inward… because the time is now to create understanding in my soul. For me, there is a greater prodding impetus toward healing, healthiness, and wisdom that leaves me unsettled until I can express myself. For me, a seed is planted and  grows, quietly laying claim in me until is bursts forth, bearing fruit that demands to be expressed. Sometimes it is a blessing… sometimes it is a curse.

Writing does not create an understanding or “knowing” of the mind, so much as a “knowing” of the heart; an intuitive sense of reality that creates resonation deep within my heart and soul. This resonation is often felt among people of many cultures, races, and religions because there is a place that we can go that is beneath all thinking, dogma, and religious systems, a place that I call our ground of being, the humus of common ground where we all are one… This… I have experienced over and over.

 So…

What is integrity? Does it matter? Does it make a difference in our daily lives? If so, how?

Integrity means that my soul and my role are a seamless whole.

It means that I am what I am; I am who I am.

What you see is what you get.

What you see is who I am. 

My beliefs and my actions match.

My life reflects integration.

What would my life look like if my soul and my role did not align? There is a façade that I hide behind. I am fake. I am a hypocrit. A lack of integration results in disintegration. I fall apart… “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.” (William Butler Yeats).

 Life is a mirror. Everything we do and say reflects back to us who we are. If I approach a situation in fear (or intimidation or lack of confidence), there will be clear indicators of that reflected back to me by the people I’m dealing with or by the situation itself.  

Do I reflect on why I am getting a particular reaction from someone? Maybe life is mirroring back to me my lack of integrity. Am I interacting with that person with sincerity and authenticity? Do they believe me? 

Do I reflect on why a situation seems intractable? Maybe life is mirroring back to me my lack of integrity. Could it be that I don’t believe there is a solution or that I can solve this thing? Am I and life mirroring this back to me? Do I believe in myself???

What would my life look like if what is within clearly is reflected without? My actions reflect what I feel, I’m real. My words are sincere and authentic; I am a man of my word. What would be clear and apparent in my life?

Here are a few questions that we must ask ourselves on a regular basis:

Am I striving for upward movement?

Am I stiving for more and more and more?

Am I seeking comfort and security, personal peace and affluence?

Is there violence at the core of who I am and how I act, react, and interact? In other words, do my words bite? Is inequality implicit in my thinking… in my words?

Do I see every person on earth as my equal? Do I look down on others for any reason? What are my assumptions about certain people? Get real with yourself… be honest…

Am I living the life that wants to live in me? (Parker Palmer).  Am I following the inner calling that has laid its hand on my life? Or am I avoiding something deeper, the challenge of creating meaning in my life? Am I fulfilling my life purpose on a daily basis? Do I know my life purpose? If not, am I spending each waking moment listening for life to reveal it to me?

Am I seeking to live out my purpose, my calling, in my career regardless of upward mobility? Often the direction of God is downward. And often the direction of the spiritual journey in not up, but down. Do I question the reasons behind what I do daily and what I’m striving for ultimately. Do these align with who I am? Is there a gentleness and peace that is reflected in my response to the competitiveness of a career?

Am I paying attention to life’s mirrors? What is being reflected back to me daily? What I emmulate comes back to me in the faces of those I meet, of those I love, and in the face of the situations I am dealing with.

Is there a clearness, a transparency, that is immediately aparent to those I interact with? Does my life reflect authenticity? Or am I hiding… my vulnerability, my lack of confidence, my duplicity, my shadows?

Are there a set of “testimonies” that show consistently in my actions. For Quakers, these testimonies are visible expressions of their faith. They have identifed these at their testimonies: integrity, equality, community, peace, and simplicity. Each of these is full of depth and meaning that lay claim on our lives; our daily actions and lifestyles we choose to live. If these testimonies are lived out consistently, then their faith is real and meaningful. But if they cannot be seen in a person’s life, then what is the point of claiming any faith? This is not a matter of any belief system, it is a matter of integrity of the human being. Consistent testimonies of faith should be lived out in the lives of Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus… They can be identified in many ways, with many words, but they must meet a litmus test of universal laws of creation.

A similar question to the last one is this, does my inner life bear fruit in my outer life; aligning inner and outer? In the New Testament, one way this is expressed is in the fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Self Control. The verse continues with a universal acceptance of a life lived by these fruit: “Against such things, there is no law.”

Is my life whole? At the root of the meaning of integrity, there is the concept of wholeness (see the Wikipedia definition of Integrity below). “There is in all things a hidden wholeness” (Meister Ekhart). Am I making visible this hidden wholeness? Are people commenting on this wholeness. Do you “hang together” as a person. I find that more we do, the more people are drawn to the present that we emulate.

Wikipedia definition of “Integrity”

Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy,[1] in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.

The word “integrity” stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete).[2] In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.

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