On Integrity

I think it is to be expected that if we pursue our growth and maturation process with intention and self-awareness that we will gradually cease looking to manipulate situations to get what we want and instead seek how to act truthfully and in the interest of what is right. Yet I’ve noticed a discomfort around use of the word integrity and I wanted to clarify what I mean lest someone feel that I have conflated integrity with perfection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Personally I’ve committed many errors of judgement over the past few years and indeed lost friends over those errors. We live in a time where it is easy to find ourselves in situations that are complex and call for deliberations on more than the choice between a simple right and wrong. Don’t cheat on your significant other, don’t steal, don’t kill, situations involving these choices can be this simple; it can also be deceptively simplistic to taut these mores when our circumstances don’t fit neatly within these lines. I believe that making mistakes is what we are here to do if we embrace with courage our character flaws, as well as our strengths, and choose to improve our decision making as we grow. This may sound trite, like a poor summation of the Catholic Church’s policy of fuck up now, repent later… but I do not take lightly the the choice to face our mistakes honestly and with courage. What gives a person integrity is not their ability to make decisions perfectly, but their choice to take responsibility for their actions and the repercussions; to look critically at their own motivations, intentions and choices, and to think about not only how to make it right with those wronged, but how to identify the situation as it arises in the future and make a different choice. Sometimes this takes being in the situation repeatedly. No matter how slowly progress is made, if a person is aiming to develop themselves and act with integrity and intention in all they do, mistakes are not made in vane.

An important point also is that part of taking responsibility for our actions means accepting when we have hurt somebody beyond what is in their capacity to forgive and still seeking to make amends. It is still, in my opinion, critical to make right, all the time knowing and respecting that the other person, even if they are able to forgive, may not be able to return to the relationship. This introduces the idea of detachment from the outcomes to our actions. Integrity then must also mean pursuing right action regardless of the likelihood of favorable outcome. If we are motivated by simply achieving the forgiveness of another we miss the key inflection point of doing what is right simply because it is right, not because it will yield a result that makes us feel better about ourselves.

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