Living with Integrity
by Sunny Schlenger
Integrity is the state of being whole or entire. As I’ve grown older and become more aware of what’s important to me, the more conscious I am of those times when my behavior doesn’t reflect my beliefs; when my outside doesn’t match my inside and I’m not living with integrity.
It used to be that I would ignore those discrepancies and just chalk them up to a desire for expediency – doing things a certain way because it’s easier or faster to do them that way. For example, I knew that I was helping my children to mature when I had expectations of them that matched their ages and skill levels. If they were supposed to clean up after themselves at mealtimes, for instance, but I did it for them because it was too much trouble to chase them down and listen to excuses, I may have avoided the discomfort of conflict, but I wasn’t doing what I knew was the right thing to do.
There are times when it’s just a lot more comfortable to go for the quick fix and not think about repercussions. But what was I teaching my kids when we didn’t follow through on our agreements? They were learning that it’s OK not to do what you say you’re going to do. (By the way, I’m not talking about those times when people have legitimate reasons to beg off. I’m referring to those everyday occurrences when we give in because it’s simpler to do that.)
Sometimes we’re just too doggoned tired or overwhelmed or irritable or rushed to do what we know is correct. But the question is: Does that make it right? If your goal is to live with integrity, you need to examine this question and figure out what it means to you. Living with integrity is a lifelong quest to honor who you are through your words AND your actions.
Do you know how to tell what’s really important to people? Don’t just listen to what they’re saying; watch what they do. If someone insists that she believes in healthy living but makes little effort to care for herself properly, what should you think? If someone says that he values family closeness above all else but is hardly ever home, how significant can that need be? Again, I know that there are times when people have trouble accomplishing what they want to because of factors beyond their control, but I’m not addressing that issue. I’m speaking of the “inner knowing” we have when we don’t even try to do what we know we’re capable of doing.
Living with integrity means that you face off every day against the million and one excuses that make life easier and that you’re honest with yourself about the ways in which you make choices and decisions. And being honest with yourself can be difficult to do, because taking a deep look inside can give you more information than you’re prepared to deal with at present. But it’s the only place to start if you want to feel as good about yourself as you can.
Living with integrity means that we know when to say yes and when to say no and that we strive to do that, to the best of our abilities. We often agree to do things we shouldn’t, taking time away from things we should do. “Getting it right” involves being absolutely clear on what we value and using every possible choice point as an opportunity to demonstrate those values.
Living a life of integrity always represents a moment-to-moment choice. It’s never too late to begin – or to begin again.