I've held a long–standing curiosity for the concept of 'Integrity', mostly because of its ambiguity – everyone seems to have their own understanding of the word.
In fact, not too long ago my mother and I were deep in conversation, I used the word Integrity in a way that didn't jive with her, which of course led to a healthy debate (debates are BIG in my family). I was shocked to learn that even we had a different understanding of the word.
So we pulled out the dictionary.
Here's what Merriam–Webster had to say:
noun – in·teg·ri·ty – \in-ˈte-grə-tē\
1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished
My mother leaned towards number 1, she's always been fond of principles, an incredibly judicious woman at heart. Whereas I preferred number 2, as it felt closer to the essence of the word, satisfying my relentless quest for simple truths.
In an effort to harmonize our differing opinions we dug a little deeper, and landed on, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, which said, "The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete."
Now that resonated with me, it validated my intuitive understanding of the word but my mom wasn't satisfied until we came across Wikipedia's definition; "...integrity is the inner sense of 'wholeness' deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others 'have integrity' to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs, and principles they claim to hold."
And there you have it, the reason why I find Integrity so ambiguous – it is totally subjective, unique to each individual's "values, beliefs, and principles".
What are your values? What do you believe in? Do you live by your principles?
Or better yet, are your beliefs serving or hindering you? Do they support your growth or prevent you from moving forward? Do they leave room for other people's beliefs? Most importantly, are they in alignment with your core self?
I try not to take my beliefs too seriously. Most of them have proven to be bullshit anyway:
school grades are an indication of intelligence
the harder you work the more you will be valued
work is meant to be a struggle
you cannot make money doing what you love
you need money to achieve freedom
beauty is determined by physical appearance
perfection is attainable
success is gauged by one's financial wealth
The list goes on but those are some of the limiting beliefs I've worked at shedding or transforming over the years, bringing me closer to my essence, aligning me with my core self, creating a powerful sensation of wholeness.
If I had held–fast to my values, beliefs, and principles, in an effort to 'have Integrity' I would've missed out on so many opportunities for growth.
So why not take beliefs, values, and principles off the table, eliminate the subjectivity? And instead, focus on creating a sensation of wholeness with an honest inquiry into your essence.
False beliefs are heavy! They weigh you down, hold you back, and limit your life.
Letting go of some of your bullshit beliefs (we've all got them) makes room for self–acceptance, compassion, and clarity. The more honest you are with yourself, the more whole you will feel, and it's from this place of wholeness that you'll find your Integrity.
Before I ever really understood what Integrity meant, I was on a mission to find and unveil my most authentic self. The more I peeled back the layers, the closer I came to my essential nature and from there a deep sense of wholeness bloomed. I became stronger and more resilient each time I transformed or let go of a limiting belief.
I've been building my Integrity by accident for years.
What I've learned, is that to live with Integrity is to practice radical honesty.
Clinging to your values, beliefs, and principles without inquiring into their authenticity, may mean you are building a false sense of Integrity. You can gauge whether or not your beliefs are in alignment with your most authentic self by your ability, or lack thereof, to recover from life's challenges. If you find it hard to get back up when life knocks you down, you may be clinging to some limiting beliefs.
Resiliency – the ability to bounce back from life's challenges, comes from living with Integrity, creating alignment between your core self and your actions.
My own personal journey towards building my Integrity, which by default has created an undeniable resiliency, has been all about getting to know my essential nature. When I am in touch with that, life's inevitable challenges are so much easier to roll with.
I'm still peeling back the layers, learning more about my essential nature all the time, pretty sure that'll be a lifelong process. But practicing Integrity along the way – aligning my essence with my actions, seems to be the key to living with ease and harmony.