integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness [wikipedia]
Recently, I participated in a reflective conversation among friends where we described each other with a single word. A couple said “integrity” for me. A short time later this word came up again when I stepped down from a volunteer position and received parting words from my colleagues.
I readily admit to being too lazy and not creative enough to even try to manipulate situations through deception. As a young adult I just ‘lived,’ underpinned by the values instilled in me as a child. There was little understanding of the possible results of my good or bad behavior.
Age and a soft search for meaning in life reinforced that engaging with and trusting the universe (life) provided opportunities I could not imagine on my own. Fighting nature only created tension. Letting go and being comfortable with the uncertainty of riding the wave opened up the world of possibilities and joy, even when not clear where it was headed. And, my moral compass provided the foundation for sincere and fulfilling relationships.
Today, I have a proactive desire to surround myself with friends and family who share this character trait — those I can trust and who know they can trust who I am — confident, smart, compassionate, selfless. While patience is another trait I have been accused of possessing, I quickly tire of fragile egos with their insatiable need of stroking and that require stepping on the backs of others. In my mind this breeds insincerity and exaggerated boasting (so nauseating). I also cannot tolerate a lack of scruples. Strong principles protect others as much as ourselves, in our communal best interest and selflessly looking out for each other. Selfishness, on the other hand, seeks short term personal gain or satisfaction without regard for the damage to the well-being of those around us. Honesty and a strong moral compass allow relationships to be robust, amazingly fulfilling, and mutually supportive — all in.
While I try to maintain my integrity, I am not perfect. I have my weaknesses, vices, and darker desires. But I commit to not intentionally deceive or take advantage of another’s weakness. If I make a mistake, I promise to correct and apologize as quickly as possible. If I am not aware of what I have done, I hope that my friends and family have enough faith in me to bring it to my attention and work with me to make it right. The remainder of my life is too short to tolerate the presence of anyone who selfishly steps on my trust and tries to gain at my expense — sacrifices their integrity through lies and immoral acts. Upholding integrity earns respect, admiration, and love. The irony is that a lack of integrity ultimately backfires into a lonely existence whereas strong integrity pays off exponentially with the richest relationships.
Transitioning into the best part of my life (working through my own mid-life traumas) has been extremely painful — psychologically, emotionally and physically — and at the same time I’m gaining life-fullness as my self assuredness and compassion are returning and growing. Fighting through this alone, I regret that my pride has prevented me from sharing more. My closest friends and family are not just there for the good times but also to help each other through the tough. We need each other. I want to be surrounded by those I can trust to be completely supportive through the fun and the trials — all in.