To have character integrity you have to not only be genuine but also principled. Moreover, to be properly principled you have to both respect and be willing to subordinate yourself to some “higher power” or authority.
Genuineness is a rare commodity these days. But of all wondrous things I’ve experienced in my years doing therapy, nothing compares to engaging with a person soul-to-soul.
Acting with a sincere heart and benign purpose helps others trust us. But it also helps us trust ourselves. And trust, is the bedrock of any healthy relationship.
Behaving in a decent and civil manner doesn’t mean we have to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of or abused. It just means we don’t have to act like we believe we’ve been treated. Rather, we should act like we would want to be treated.
Manipulators are covert-aggressors. They’re out to win, dominate, and control but don’t want to be seen that way. If you knew what they were really up to, they’d run a higher risk of being resisted. And if you knew what they were really like, you’d be more wary of them. They’re the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Over the years I’ve counseled many individuals whose life became a shipwreck because they never gained mastery over their aggression. Sometimes they were overt about it. Other times, they were covert in their aggression (for manipulative purposes). Either way, they made a mess of their relationships and brought untold pain into the lives of many. For these individuals, acquiring the controls necessary to assert as opposed to aggress was truly the task of a lifetime.
It’s not enough to just to be willing to admit the truth. Many folks will do that, especially after they’ve been caught lying. Rather, it’s more important to truly revere the truth. A solid character knows the value of the truth – its power to heal, to empower, and to free. But it’s always a choice to embrace the truth – a choice truly decent characters freely make.
Some habitual liars are called “pathological” liars because they lie for no apparent reason. They lie even at times when the truth would suffice or serve them better. Some have regarded such senseless lying as a kind of mental illness or even insanity. But these liars are not insane. Rather, they belong to a group of the most severely disordered characters among us (i.e. psychopaths, sociopaths, etc.), and they’re perfectly rational. There’s a “method” to their apparent “madness.”
There’s great power in truth. It can indeed set us free – even from our most unhealthy tendencies. But first we have to be of a mind to reckon with it. And then, we have to be willing to accept it.
At a primal level, we are all animals with basic desires, instincts, urges, and raw emotions. And these primal characteristics of ours are not inherently evil. They’re a part of who we are. But because we are more than mere animals, we’re capable of functioning on a much higher plane. Before we can elevate ourselves to that plane, however, we must first “own” and then reckon with our baser inclinations. Of course, this is neither appealing nor easy. In fact the burden of self-reckoning is a “cross” we’re all called to carry if we’re to fashion a better world. Failing to accept this burden and instead lying about the flaws within ourselves that we need to reckon with is the ultimate evil.