One of the things which I believe is vital to our happiness and wellbeing is learning to live with integrity.
The dictionary defines integrity as:
Soundness of character; honesty. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.
The word ‘honesty’ jumps out at me. Integrity is self-honesty in action.
Integrity is about authenticity; being true to who and what we are and embodying that in every aspect of our lives.
This isn’t, however, always easy.
We live in a paradoxical culture. Whilst our society outwardly promotes a very egocentric sense of individualism, at the same time we’re indoctrinated to adhere to its core ideals and values.
We can supposedly be, have, or do whatever we want, so long as we continue to toe the line and be good little workers/consumers. Our culture compels us to pursue our dreams and desires, so long as those dreams and desires are commodities that can be purchased and consumed.
I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain that the universe didn’t go to the immense bother of existing just so we could spend our brief lifespans chasing after consumer goods and getting ever bigger TV screens to park our asses in front of.
Living a superficial life without ever stopping to question who we are, why we’re here and what’s important to us inevitably leads to a frustrated dead-end existence. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”.
Rather than thinking for ourselves, we become, as the late, great Jacque Fresco put it, “reflectors of culture”. We adopt the values that are programmed into us from a young age, whether or not they reflect who we are at a core level. We lose touch with our Essential Self and end up slapping on the mask of our ‘Social Self’ to keep those around us happy.
Such a life is inherently inauthentic, and I think most people, whether they’re consciously aware of it or not, know that. That’s maybe part of the reason we tend to be an unhappy, dissatisfied society, in spite of our material wealth and commonplace luxuries that just a few generations ago would have been unimaginable.
There are two steps to living with integrity and authenticity.
The first is self-knowledge. This means knowing who and what we truly are, as opposed to what other people and society tell us we should be.
It means being very clear about what’s important to us — our values, our passions, and our deepest interests and loves. These are both our inner flame and the compass with which we can navigate life.
The second step is having the courage to live and embody this knowledge.
When we know what we truly want and value in life — when we know what we’re all about — everything we do must align with that.
It’s all very well saying that I honour and respect the planet and that I have a high regard for peace and harmony. But does my life reflect these values?
Am I being authentic in the way that I choose to live? Am I expressing integrity by ensuring that all my choices and actions align with what I truly believe and know to be true?
Or am I bumbling along, doing what everyone else is doing simply because that’s just what everyone else does?
To live with integrity requires unflinching honesty.
When we live out of harmony with our own essential nature, we diminish ourselves. We stifle and deaden the innate potentiality, aliveness and creativity at the core of our being (albeit often hidden beneath layers of conditioning and the mask of our Social Self). When this happens, we suffer.
Modern society is not set up in a way that encourages the free and natural expression of our Essential Self.
That doesn’t mean we can’t do it, however.
It just takes a little effort, courage and a generous amount of self-awareness.
The results more than justify the effort. The conflict at the core of our psyche — the disparity between who we really are and who we choose to be in daily life — is finally resolved. This war has caused us so many years of self-doubt, self-recrimination, fear, anxiety, and depression. It’s time to end this needless suffering once and for all.
A life of integrity rewards us with the one thing we prize above all else — peace of mind.
Truly authentic people blaze with the courage of daring to be who and what they were born to be. This, I believe, is an essential step to happiness and emotional freedom.
Perhaps the simple act of being who we are and allowing our lives to be a daring and radiant expression of that is the greatest accomplishment of all? For as Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated:
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest achievement.
Live with integrity by daring to be authentic. Dare to be true. Dare to be you.