- The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness
- The state of being whole and undivided
Integrity is a word that we hear almost everyday – a word that we likely began hearing far more frequently once we entered into recovery. Though we hear this word on a regular basis, we likely spend a relatively small amount of time thinking about its true meaning. We understand the basic concept, do our best to incorporate it into our day-to-day lives, and go about our business. But what does living with integrity mean? Many say, “Doing the right thing, even when no one else is around to see you do it.”
Well, yes. But understanding the basic idea behind integrity is very different that making a conscious effort to live an entirely new way of life. You can stop writing bad checks, stop stealing from Wal-Mart, and start throwing your cigarette butts in the proper receptacles, and that it is all fine and well. But does that mean you have become a man of true integrity? No, certainly not. You can make an ongoing financial amends to your parents, sending them a portion of your bi-weekly paycheck… but if you are earning your paychecks by conning innocent old women in a fraudulent call center, you are probably not a man of true integrity (despite your best intentions).
What is Integrity?
The truth is, many of us will continue to do things that we may not believe in the pit of our souls to be good, moral, or honest. Yet, they are so convenient for us and our current circumstances, we can easily convince ourselves otherwise. We are addicts and alcoholics – convincing ourselves otherwise is what we do best. We have spent years of our lives actively convincing ourselves that things have not gotten out of hand – that we can drink and use like others, and that we are fully in control. Of course, when we step back and take an honest look at the way we have been living, we can clearly see that our lives are totally governed by chemical substance; empty, unmanageable, and essentially futile. So we commit to change, and we learn about things like self-love, morality, and selflessness. Yet, we are still human, and we always will be. We strive for continuous progress, because we understand that perfection is an entirely unattainable ideal.
People that truly live by the principle of integrity strive, on a daily basis, to do what is inherently right rather than what is in their best interest. We are not born with integrity, nor are we born without it. In most cases, it is a skill we must hone. Like any other behavior-based virtue, we can continuously cultivate integrity over time. One way to consciously work towards cultivating spiritual principles is to set personal goals. It might seem like discontinuing self-seeking and dishonest behaviors is enough (and it is certainly a very good beginning), but in order to further improve our grasp of integrity and what it truly means, we must work towards ongoing self-betterment. What goals can we set for ourselves in order to gain a better understanding of integrity and what it means? Well, take a look.
- Doing good deeds and not posting about them on social media.
Did you help an old woman bring her groceries to the car? That’s great! Maybe don’t write a lengthy status about doing good for others, or avoid snapping a picture of the smiling woman for your Instagram account. We all love receiving validation for a job well done – peer approval builds self-esteem and self-confidence. But what builds even more self-esteem is engaging in a noble act and keeping it all to yourself. Each week, try doing something nice for someone else… and keeping the good deed private.
- Giving another person the benefit of the doubt.
Life is stressful; between bills and work and a limited amount of time in the day, it is easy to fall victim to stress from time-to-time. And when we are stressed, we are far more likely to become defensive, short-tempered, and blameful. Learning to give others the benefit of the doubt is not only an excellent way to reduce stress, but it is a great way to build integrity. When we learn to avoid rushing to judgment or negativity, we increase our own nobility.
We all have a few hours to spare, no matter how busy and jam-packed we believe our days to be. Have you binge-watched a Netflix show over the course of the past 2 months? If the answer is ‘yes’ (which I can almost guarantee it is), then you can probably make a little time to volunteer. There are many opportunities to do so. Spend a couple of hours a week helping out a local food pantry, or walking dogs at an animal shelter. Volunteering for a one-day stint on occasion is good, but working an ongoing volunteer position into your weekly schedule will do more for your integrity in the long run.
- Driving in a non-aggressive manner.
It is exceedingly easy to lose control of all moral reservation while attempting to share the road with people who, well… lack adequate driving skills. The way we drive shows a lot about us – the way we cope with anger, the sense of entitlement we inherently feel, and how we interact with strangers. It is not realistic to assume that as soon as we enter into recovery, our road rage will rapidly dissipate. However, remaining calm on the road is certainly a good goal to work towards.
- Highlighting the accomplishments of others and downplaying your own.
This does not mean putting yourself down or failing to acknowledge your own accomplishments. On the contrary, it means remaining humble while giving others the praise they deserve. Without realize we are doing so, we may try to make ourselves look better by subtly bragging, or disregarding the successes of our peers. We can practice integrity by lifting others up through a genuine celebration of their accomplishments.
Practice and Progress – Not Perfection
Of course, there are innumerable ways to practice integrity. Because we lack ample experiences in leading honest and selfless lives, it is always a good idea to run our more questionable ideas past a trusted support. We may thoroughly convince ourselves that making thousands of dollars a week by selling fake life insurance plans is fine, so long as we are putting our money away for college. In reality, sweet-talking the naïve into spending their hard-earned cash on imaginary assurances is never really okay. Still seem like a justifiable idea? Run it by a friend or two. As mentioned previously, we can readily convince ourselves of just about anything.
And of course, we must go easy on ourselves when attempting to make such drastic changes. We are used to living immoral lives of selfishness, greed, and depravity. Becoming morally sound individuals, driven by a set of spiritual principles and selfless motives is not a transformation that will occur overnight. But practice makes progress, and progress is what we strive for.