In recovery we learn about integrity. They say integrity is what people do when no one is looking. No one is perfect. I mean, come on. Being a mom has given me two little people (well they aren’t exactly little anymore) in my life who call me out on my nonsense. They are like video cameras recording everything I say and do. The good thing about them being like this is that they keep me in check. They see all. It’s pretty incredible. I don’t get away with much, if anything. Most of us are doing our best in life. Others are not. Some people are harmful to the world and others don’t live according to our standards. Integrity may begin with what you do when no one is looking, but it certainly doesn’t end there. It’s more about being rooted.
When I think of the word “integrity,” I get an image of myself as a very solid person – someone who does not waiver. I see myself taking full responsibility for my life, and bringing it all in – a person who stands tall, but doesn’t see themselves as better than anyone else. When I am filled with integrity, I don’t view myself as “right” while thinking others are “wrong.” I just do my best with what I have as I am moving along in the world. If I mess up, I admit it, but I don’t wallow in it, even when others are trying to grind my head into their notions about my life. Integrity to me means that I know who I am and where I am going. I am not too hard on myself, yet I try my hardest to be the best person I can be. I fall short at times, but I keep walking in my strength and helping others along the way. I am kind. I am forgiving. When someone else is struggling, I see myself in them and I offer whatever I have to give because I’ve been there before. I don’t forget where I came from, but I know exactly where I am going.
It doesn’t matter to me much anymore what other people say. Words have become so diluted – as a writer, it makes me kind of sad that we aren’t taught the root of words in school. So what do we have left? We have actions. People babble all the time about what they believe in – about their good deeds – about “the truth” and so forth, yet when the skin meets the pavement, many people falter in their beliefs. They haven’t truly dealt with their fear, you see. When you haven’t walked through your fears, your words paint a nice picture, but they mean absolutely nothing, because your “truth” will come out in the form of really bad behavior when you haven’t put some guts behind what you say you are, no matter how much integrity you try to uphold.
For a really long time I thought I wanted to be a missionary, or some kind of church leader, but I saw the pressure on those that were behind the pulpit, and more often than not, none of those people lived up to the standards of the congregation when it came right down to it. You can go to seminary school all day long and learn the texts and history of religion, but they don’t teach you about facing your fears or facing yourself in the mirror. I never learned how to do that by sitting in a pew. I learned that by going out into the real world and finding out who I was, realizing I was shit, and doing something about it. Not that we are all shit, but when you start facing yourself – instead of idealizing yourself, you realize that you’ve got a lot to work on. Instead of pointing fingers, you begin working vigorously on yourself. That’s integrity. And it doesn’t stop there. You keep doing that. Over and over and over. And when you start seeing yourself pointing your fingers, you haul your hand back down to your side and do another inventory of yourself. It never ends. That’s integrity. When someone does you wrong, you take an inventory of how you feel and at some point thereafter, you automatically forgive them because you see yourself in them. That’s integrity. You keep coming back to yourself through the mirror of other people. You keep marching forward rather than looking back. You are strong in a way that is humble. That’s integrity.
When people are not healthy influences in your life, a person with integrity knows to let go. They know how to move on. They keep marching and continue taking inventory of themselves along the way. They see things for what they are rather than romanticizing life. They are true to themselves, but they always lend a helping hand to others and practice genuine kindness. Integrity is more about being rooted in who you are, rather than talking about what you believe in. It takes work and willingness, and it never ends.
The root of the word “integrity” comes from the Latin adjective “integer” meaning, “whole or complete.” It’s like becoming who you truly are after seeing exactly what you aren’t. Integrity accompanies humility. It requires balance. It means taking action, but that action is internal before it is external. What goes in, must come out. To be a person of integrity you must face the mirror and walk through your fears. The rest is history, and anything else is just talk.