How do you define integrity? Webster defines it as high ethical principles lived out even when no one is watching. In olden time, folks spoke of righteousness. That didn’t mean self-righteous pride. Rather, it meant living in right relationship to one’s recognized transcendent power. So, how our actions define our relationships pretty much defines our character.
Integrity has a second meaning. That meaning involves being whole or undivided. It’s been said no one can serve two masters. But in fact that’s what most of us do. We really want to do the noble, selfless thing. But most of the time we do the selfish thing. We really want to simply be and give freely. But in fear we grab what we think we need to survive and be happy.
Both aspects of the descriptions above define a person of integrous character. And integrity is the ultimate goal of the 10th commandment of character I’ve been writing about. (See: pp. 144-145 in Character Disturbance.)
Personal integrity goes beyond sincerity. A person can be sincerely, genuinely hateful. Likewise, you can be sincerely greedy, exploitative, abusive, etc. Unfortunately, these days there are plenty of character-impaired folks who make no bones about who they are.
As mentioned in an earlier post, purity of heart and sincerity go hand-in-hand in decent characters. And striving constantly to be of both pure and sincere heart is a hallmark of personal integrity.
Some in psychology have long suggested that we all have two “selves.” There’s our smaller or “false” self we tend to present to the world. Underneath that facade lies our more authentic, bigger, or “true” self. We rarely let others see us as we truly are. But perhaps the bigger problem is that we rarely let ourselves get in touch with who we really are at the core. Folks who don’t really know who they are or what’s going on inside of them are bound to have and cause much trouble in life. And we’re really good at fooling ourselves, too. (See also: pp. 171-172 in In Sheep’s Clothing.) So, some suggest that self-awareness is the key to psychological health. Unfortunately, just knowing who you really are isn’t enough to make you a person of integrity.
Seeing and Embracing the Bigger Picture
It’s not enough to see who we really are. We have to love what we see. For what we are at the core is this universe’s most perfect creation. Still, keeping our hearts open to and for love is life’s biggest challenge. This crazy, mixed-up world gives us too many reasons to guard or close our hearts. But seeing the bigger picture – seeing that everything belongs – can set us on a richer path. Now, all this sounds pretty idealistic, ethereal, and impractical, I know. So in the coming weeks I’ll be talking a lot more about it. Once we see the bigger picture that is life and existence, and once we embrace both it and our place in it, we begin the process of spiritual transformation. (See also: Character’s First Commandment.)
The first podcasts on these topics will be edited and ready for posting in just a few weeks. You’ll find info on the Character Matters page when they’re ready for downloading.