I believe we deeply desire integrity – For ourselves and for the people we encounter.
It’s one of those qualities, like “balance,” that seems wired into our circuitry in such a way that we quite naturally understand it, aspire to it, and notice its unquestionable lacking in our world. But, as this article is really about action, the question becomes “what can we do about it?”
Where is the integrity in our society? Is it evident and demonstrated by our leaders or celebrities? If so, then why is there a relentless onslaught of seemingly good or talented people doing the wrong things? In fact, the integrity gap seems to be ever expanding.
It Isn’t What You Think
To get to the root of the problem, I believe we need to examine the very origin of the word “integrity.” And, to quote the character Inigo Montoya from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride (arguably one of the most quotable films in history):
“You keep using that word.
I do not think it means what you think it means.”
It doesn’t. Over many years, we have altered the definition of “having integrity” to mean: honest, virtuous, and upstanding. But it doesn’t mean what you think it means.
In fact, the root of the word, “integer,” is Latin, meaning “whole, or complete.” “Integrity” truly means “the quality or state of being complete; wholeness.”
We point to the outward expressions of “integrity,” noting such virtues as honesty and truthfulness. But, in reality, these qualities are simply a natural byproduct of the condition of completeness. So our true challenge, you see, is becoming whole and complete, even in our undeniable imperfection. That is much like like finding solid footing in an off balance predicament.
How Do You Do That?
“Inconceivable,” you might protest. “Completeness is no more achievable than perfect balance. Or safely navigating a fire swamp.” You are absolutely correct, my friend. But, I believe the key to embodying integrity is twofold:
- Become engaged in the process. The process is called “integration,” and it means “putting together the components that are necessary for wholeness – those things that are integral to your life.”
- See yourself as complete, even though you are a work in progress. You have, even now, what you need to move forward and take coordinated, purposeful steps and do the right thing.
When we (or the people we admire) perceive ourselves as undeserving of our present circumstances, or lacking something we think is necessary to preserve or gain happiness, we are incomplete. We are lacking integrity. We may begin to do things that express this shortcoming, and we pursue our missing elements, even though we may not fully understand them.
Decide that you are, right now, complete and capable of doing the right thing. You are enough, just as you are, regardless of your wealth, job, or external circumstances. Integrity does not discriminate, regardless of where or how you are stationed in life. You can possess integrity, but you must own your completeness and be:
- Completely present
- Completely accountable
- Completely honest
- Completely committed to persevere through the process
This process of putting it together, assembling completeness, fascinates me. I wrote about it in my book, Off Balance On Purpose, and shared a process for assembling what I believe are the five essential aspects for completeness: work, relationships, health, spiritual growth, and personal interests. Rather than “balancing” these elements, I believe we must integrate them in a healthy and abundant way. That’s where joy resides. That’s when integrity becomes second nature.
Integrity is not a sometimes thing. There isn’t a switch you turn on and off when it suits you. It is a natural byproduct of a higher pursuit, and a plan of action.
- Develop integrity by selecting essential elements and (here’s the hard part) eliminating from your life those things that challenge your completeness.
- Insist on integrity in your relationships, business partners, and for yourself.
- Reward integrity. Make sure your “heroes” are people who really deserve the title. Commend others who exhibit the virtues you admire and aspire to embody.
There will always be room for improvement, and you and I will never reach our full potential (because it is infinite). Still, the state of wholeness is yours to claim. When you claim your completeness, and begin to live and act in this way, you also become a shining example for others to follow.