Spirituality is a powerful term encompassing a way of thinking about, feeling, and living in the world. Essential to spiritual life is mindful thinking and choosing to experience the many different aspects of human existence and conscious interaction with others and our environment.
With a spiritual view of life, we can see the divine in the mundane, the miraculous in each and every day, and the extraordinary in the ordinary. This monthly series will focus on the spiritual power of common words and the concepts they represent. This month’s word is Integrity.
The Dictionary Definition of Integrity
Integrity is defined as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY”. Another definition says, “an unimpaired condition: SOUNDNESS”; and one more is, “the quality or state of being complete or undivided: COMPLETENESS”.
The Spiritual in Integrity
Let us consider all three definitions. The first is probably the closest to the spiritual intent, which is living a life by a moral code that you uphold consistently and for the benefit of yourself and others. Living with integrity means people can count on you to persist with your beliefs and actions in ways that resist changing when circumstances become difficult or when someone you admire or care about is involved but acting without integrity.
The idea of the “unimpaired condition” is also worth thinking about in our thoughts and actions in life. If we are “of sound mind and body” we can live a prosperous and happy life. To be “sound” is to be without worry or anxiety. Living in your integrity, and thus your “soundness” means you feel confident and will be unruffled when difficult situations arise, especially ones involving moral dilemmas.
Lastly, for an object or a person to have the integrity of “completeness” means that the person has lived a rich life, absorbed many lessons, and created a whole self (rather than a fragmented one). You can act with integrity, you can hold up and sustain your integrity, and you can be a person “of” integrity (or wholeness).
Living with Integrity in Life
In times when fear becomes a common mantra among people, in communities, in nations, and as a global threat, integrity can be the best anchor we have to withstand the storm. Integrity is like a good diet for your soul, eating vegetables, drinking water, and choosing fresh foods over processed ones. Living in integrity also means keeping your center even if others around you are “getting away with” something, in terms of wealth, relationships, and personal development.
This word is one that applies before the phrase “is its own reward”. A common frustration arises when you observe that living with integrity is not getting others to live that way or watching what should be severe consequences pass by hypocrites and con people. Not only do people need to live in integrity, but so do institutions, which are very much in need of the individuals working for them to uphold the integrity of the institution. In other words, the speed limit applies the same to the rich person or poor person breaking the law by driving too fast.
When we feel whole and integrated, we often discover we do not need as much stuff, certain validation or approval, or constant recognition. The person living his or her integrity lives life. This can be especially challenging if someone calls our integrity into question or flat our lies about us to others and those others do not do the due diligence to determine if what is being said is true.
It can be a daunting task in our social world, and because of our social needs, to find the purest center of our integrity. But if we do, we can embrace power and understanding that can keep us in a productive state of happiness as well as give us a shield to ward off taking shortcuts that will harm us and others.
Integrating the Self with the World
To be whole as a human incarnated in this life journey, we must try to integrate wholeness from various areas of life. There is the wholeness we wish to experience in relationships, in career, in family, in friendships, and in the authenticity of self. As we work our way through life, we experience fragments in all areas that happen to help us find our path to individual wholeness.
Integrity in our work means performing a job and using our skills appropriately, coming to understand our value, and the proper use of our skills to help others and gain for ourselves. We are out of integrity when we do work, we do not enjoy for the pay as the only motivator or, conversely, we are not paid and accept less pay for work we do exceptionally well.
We are out of integrity when we keep secrets about our true selves to keep family pretense undisturbed, knowing that an act of integrity and admission may literally mean the breakdown of the family, ostracizing, or shaming. Integrity is not an easy rode sometimes, but it does become easier the further down the road you go and the more often to act properly in ways that you know are authentic and respectful.
At “the heart of it”, living an integrated life means being honest, first and foremost, with yourself and what you can know regarding all aspects of your life. If some aspect of your life makes you feel or act outside your integrity, then it is certainly time for a change. And just as important, situations that challenge us often work to teach us what integrity needs to be because it is not a simple matter of personal preference but a total integration with the life we live interacting with the lives around us.