The Importance of Integrity
Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
~ Miguel Ángel Ruiz
Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.
~ Barbara De Angelis
Big word, integrity, at least I think it is for most people. It brings up a lot. When we think of a person who lives in integrity we usually judge them as being of great character. Someone who we can put our faith in and whose actions line up with their words. Someone who does the right thing, who follows through, who keeps their word, who is responsible and dependable. All admirable qualities. Let’s look deeper at this kind of personal integrity as well as what I’m calling spiritual integrity and emotional integrity and examine what each means for us. What role does integrity play in our personal growth and evolution? I believe it plays a very important role.
I teach in my Commit to 5K group how important integrity is just to our base level of self-esteem. The definition of esteem is “the regard in which one is held.” So self-esteem is a reflection of how we regard ourselves. I always ask the women in my group how they feel when someone does not display integrity with them, how it impacts them when someone does not keep their word or continually breaks it? It’s always unanimous that there are detrimental effects to the relationship, disappointment, distrust, a feeling that the person does not care or hold them in high regard. That lack of integrity definitely sends a message to the receiver. Then I ask them to realize that when they don’t keep their word to themselves they are sending the same message to themselves and they are not holding themselves in high regard. Doing this repeatedly to ourselves will eventually wear away at our self-esteem or how we regard ourselves. Self-esteem and self-love are built and demonstrated decision by decision and action by action. Instead of building we are tearing down when we repeatedly step out of integrity with ourselves.
So we have the integrity we display with others and the integrity we display with ourselves at this level of keeping our commitments and our word. Then we have a deeper emotional integrity to consider. Do we take action out of alignment with how we really feel? Do we say yes when we want to say no? Do we get into a relationship with someone when we clearly feel they are not right for us? Do we feel sad but act happy? Walk around seething with anger internally but stuff it down and act politely? Do we have divergent opinions or feelings to express but keep them to ourselves or modify them out of fear of judgment by others? This lack of emotional integrity also eats away at us creating a schism internally that may manifest in dysfunction and unhealthy behaviors as we try to find a way to feel whole and aligned. The only way to reintegrate and feel that sense of wholeness or integrity is to begin to line our actions up with our emotions. Speaking our truth is a great example of this. Say what you really feel and not what you think is acceptable to others. This may be challenging in the face of those who may attack or try to make you wrong, but it will keep you in integrity and your sense of self will stay intact.
Another level to our integrity is spiritual and is probably the foundational level of integrity which personal and emotional integrity naturally flow from. Spiritual integrity is about our alignment with the greatest version of ourselves, our highest self, our Divine nature. When we are in alignment things flow very naturally for us and we find ourselves in the zone where we are very present to the moment we are living in. We’re living and expressing from our truth, from the greatest version of ourselves. We can say we’re in integrity with the truth of who we are beyond our personality and surface level of existence. We nurture that integrity by taking time to do what brings us back to that place of alignment with our true Divine nature. We engage in what fully brings us present to ourselves, where thoughts cease, time no longer exists, and we are vibrating at our highest energetic level. That can look different for each of us. For me, a few things that do it are meditation, baking, and being with another as a coach and counselor. We all have that thing unique to ourselves and we’ve all felt how amazing it is to be in that zone, many times creating things that later we very much understand came from a place beyond our individual self. I find that I fall out of that alignment or integrity regularly and then the practice is about how to bring myself back into integrity. That means even when I’m not engaged in those activities that I find a way to bring myself back into integrity with who I really am at my core. Those thoughts, feelings and experiences that tend to drop me out of alignment need to be acknowledged and surrendered in order to drop me back into the zone of remembrance.
In the process of writing this blog, I came across a post on Facebook by Pema Chodron from her book “How To Meditate” that says: “This is actually the essence of the mindfulness practice. You keep coming back to the immediacy of your experience, and then when the thoughts start coming up, thoughts like, bad, good, should, shouldn’t, me, jerk, you, jerk, you let those thoughts go, and you come back again to the immediacy of your experience. This is how we can experiment with Shunyata (emptiness), how we can experiment with the open, boundless dimension of being.”
That open, boundless dimension of being we keep coming back to through this practice is the truth of our greatness and the practice brings us into integrity with it. When we are in integrity at this level then we can more easily act with integrity on every level. More importantly, we experience ourselves as whole and there is great peace in that experience.