Integrity The compass to mediate ambition BY: Troy Murphy | July 2017
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Without a moral compass, we wander aimlessly in the dark canyons of complexity. We need the strength of self to give direction. When we have no map, we bounce chaotically seeking acceptance by submitting to others or boldly trying to force others to submit to us. Integrity of self understands personal boundaries, differentiating from where we end and where others begin. This identification of self creates a different dynamic in relationships. Instead of endlessly trying to appease or dominate, we interact with respect—and love. no map to guide us. Integrity binds beliefs, values and actions, creating a foundation of character. Without integrity, we lose direction, constantly confused by the conflicting pressures a complex world.
INTEGRITY DIVIDING THE SELF FROM OTHERS
We live in a world not of numbers of individuals, each experiencing life intimately, with feelings of sadness and joy. To fully appreciate this diversity of experience, we must find solitude within ourselves first; a sense of our own individual life, living among others. Integrity creates a sense of one’s own reality with freedoms to give and receive to those around them.
When our boundaries (of self) are compromised and our identity merges with the throngs of other impersonal beings, we lose the capacity to live. We must maintain the boundary between our self and others. According to David Hume this “consciousness of integrity is necessary for happiness.”
The integrity of self as an individual, with distinct feelings and experiences, is essential for self-examination. When we feel, we must recognize the feeling comes from within. The sense of self, separate and distinct from others, maintaining integrity of boundaries, doesn’t distance the individual from others but provides an avenue for connection. Carl Rodgers suggests that a “person who accepts his own feelings within himself, finds that a relationship can be lived on the basis of these real feelings.” We only can bond intimately with others when we recognize the relationship consists of two human beings.
According Erich Fromm, we are driven to unite with others. We may approach unifying in several ways. We may lose our sense of self, constantly submitting to groups and individuals. We sacrifice self to unite. Another avenue is through dominations, forcing others to become part of us, ignoring their individuality.
These attempts at connection fail. They both weaken integrity, lacking boundaries dividing the self from others—either ignoring the self or ignoring others. These approaches never successfully unite the self with others; both create dependence, leaving the pursuer of security constantly in fear. But love, Fromm continues is different. “Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self.”
"The integrity of self as an individual, with distinct feelings and experiences, is essential for self-examination. "
Once we know our self, we can relate that self to others. The beginning framework for integrity is we recognize we exist in a particular spot within the universe, accepting responsibility to for this existence.
A more modern writer, Daniel Goleman, agrees. In his bestselling book Emotional Intelligence, he puts it this way, “a more healthy pattern, of course, is to balance being true to oneself with social skills, using them with integrity.” We recognize the self and we recognize the other each as individual human beings. Instead of bowing or dominating we connect through interpersonal skills.
Emotions are involved in connection. We need connections; therefore, interactions are infused with emotions. We feel fear, anger, joy and shame. When connections fray, we feel sad. The possibility of rejection is powerful and integrity of self is challenged. We feel shame for differences; we abandon individuality or ruthlessly ignore the individuality of others to protect our selves. There’s no consistency of behavior. The person lacking in integrity chaotically seeks security from the outside, constantly suspicious, and never at peace. When security is derived from outside, we are at the mercy of others.
Many children arrive at adulthood lacking integrity. They grew up in homes where parents struggled with their own identity, forcing children to silently submit to authority. The invasive over-controlling environment stagnated the emergence of self. Instead of the self expanding, experiencing the joys of potentialities, the self constricted, denouncing integrity and relying on external factors for fulfillment. Joys and sorrows become dependent on outside factors. The protective barrier of integrity is injured, self-respect lowered, and the child becomes lost in the complex world of relationships, seeking connection but blind to his individual self.
We can escape childhood deficiencies. Not immediately; but with patience we grow, we recognize feelings, and accept those feelings. We may begin to draw simple connections between personal behaviors and felt experience. With the beginnings of integrity, we see ourselves in the world, affected by experience but separate from the world. We own our feelings.
CONGRUENCY OF SELF
Integrity means congruence. The emerging self faces challenges—pressures to conform. The individual self, separate from the crowd, integrates values, convictions, and standards. When we live according to these self-professed rules, we have integrity. This is much different than blindly living to group ideals, group rules, and rigid accepted dogma. There is no self when the group dictates beliefs, actions, and goals. We can belong to a group but maintain our individuality, questioning when appropriate, and deviating from norms when internal principles are violated. Groups often challenge personal integrity. Individuality threatens their strength. They spread fear, demand loyalty and slyly suggest sacrifice of thought.
Integrity demands strength. By acting in opposition to self proclaimed values, we weaken our boundaries, losing respect in our self. The thief or the liar tragically destroys their own soul, dissolving the boundary between self and others, depriving the self of healthy connection, and forever chasing security that cannot be found.
As with all human characteristics, we will encounter conflicts where values clash. The internal guide fades and proper direction isn’t self-evident. We may make wrong choices without damaging integrity. We do the best we can, making repairs when necessary.
When words and actions conflict, we are self-invalidating; the world inside fails to integrate with the world outside. We sacrifice one or the other. We ignore the reality of others or the reality of self.
"We act, say, and promise when prompted by the moment; but without integrity, the promises have no substance."
The integrity allows for the differentiation between the self and experience. This creates resilience. We feel experience but not overwhelmed by it. We integrate the experience, gaining deeper wisdom. The self becomes dynamic responsive to experience. The integrity creates a core of self awareness willing to live by internal values.
“Integration is not a function of the self, it is what the self is.” Daniel J.Siegal
Lacking integrity, the self lacks distinction from others—the bond connecting behaviors and values is weakened—outside needs excuse deviations from important life goals. Values, goals purposes must be individual to drive behaviors in the face of outside opposition. But when the lines of differentiation fade, we just act according to impulse, bowing to the moment but blind to the future. Lies deceptions and chameleon like relationships have no course, blowing in no predictable direction. No integrity of self means promises are flat, commitments breakable, and values excusable.
We act, say, and promise when prompted by the moment; but without integrity, the promises have no substance. Future actions depend on future moments, not past promises. Without integrity, any excuse suffices; we guiltlessly back out of the promise because keeping it no longer seems expedient.
Integrity of purpose isn’t perfect. Human behavior lacks pure knowable motivation. Values conflict, present enjoyment contends with future costs, and integrity of self is challenged by needs for acceptance. Freedom of choice, in the face of uncertainty is burdensome. We seek strict rules, join movements, ignore conflicting data to alleviate the mental challenges of ethical action supported from integrity of self.
INTEGRITY BUILDS SELF-ESTEEM
Integrity of self becomes the foundation for growth; the beginning of a chain reaction, allowing for growth. To achieve we must trust in our abilities, having confidence in our fitness in the face of challenges. These are internal qualities, empowering action that often deviates from the norms of society. Instead of safely marching with the crowd, we slow, look around and analyze the possibilities.
Trusting our abilities must be based in reality, not falsely build on fantasy and self-delusion. Self-esteem boosted awkwardly from deception easily collapses, harming us mentally, emotionally and possibly physically. We must carefully examine reality before crossing the ropes into an arena, facing a ferocious skilled opponent that we are ill prepared to meet. Upon the first strike, our self-esteem is shattered by the fists of reality.
The shouts of well-meaning guides echo loudly; building the illusion of strength without respect for reality. We cannot achieve security by implementing methods that do not work. We may temporarily diminish anxiety but soothing our fears while leaving essential characteristics unexamined is a fools game. Nathaniel Branden suggests we build self-esteem through consciousness, responsibility and integrity. I agree. We acknowledge our individuality, take responsibility for our lives, and examine experience.
Lack of integrity carries significant challenges. We don’t live in a just world—often the social chameleon can rise to powerful positions. Sometimes, especially in politics, honesty of purpose may harm wide spread support. But the lack of self, external successes aside, still injures the soul, detaching words from actions, and commitments from actuality. The self is blurred to be accepted. But the self being accepted is undefined and without borders. There is no concrete self to known. Without the anchor of self, actions are excused; the self expresses whichever color best fits the situation. Security for any relationship constantly remains in a chaotic state waiting to see what will happen next.
When values are situational, we have no guide. We are not free to act because we have no foundation—we are blown to and from with each situation. Pay attention to what you do and say. Are your actions, thoughts and words in line with proclaimed values? If they are not, then correct them; don’t make an excuse. When we are people of integrity, people of honor, we create the foundation for growth. Our possibilities, our relationships, and our futures create the joys and security of knowing ourselves and of being known.