What Does Living With Integrity Really Mean?
As the Summer rain doused the dying embers of 2018, I made a commitment to forge a closer alignment between the values I preached and the actions I practiced.
Not your average New Year’s resolution, granted. But I had long forsaken party drugs, had taken up unicycling three years earlier and, in 2017, had kicked my processed sugar addiction where it hurts. Frankly there wasn’t much left.
Living with integrity with our core values shouldn’t be that hard, right?
Most of us have already picked the low-hanging fruit: Refraining from sleeping with our best friend’s spouse or assaulting strangers with shopping trolleys for failing to maintain social distance in the confectionary aisle. We generally have the basics covered.
But the very fact that I was still striving towards living with integrity at fifty-three got me reflecting on why it’s such a challenge to consistently experience a oneness of values, thoughts and actions, in everyday life.
Doing The Work
Our social realities are constructed for us over a lifetime, by a complex mosaic of other people’s values. We are told how to dress, eat, walk and pray. And we are taught who to love and who to hate.
All these teachings, implicit and explicit, are framed by rigid constructs of gender, race, sexuality and perceived ability. And they are reinforced by the crippling corsetry of social expectation.
So powerful are the scripts we memorise and go on to recite that well-meaning platitudes of just be yourself are about as helpful to our personal emancipation as a set of stairs to a wheel-chair user. “C’mon, you can do it!”
Follow The Leaders
The remarkable women pictured here are revered because they are truly living with integrity. And they are willing to do the hard work to make that happen. They question everything, challenge anyone, speak their truth and hold themselves to account.
They do all this in hostile environments, at great personal expense, in the relentless pursuit of living lives of authenticity and integrity. In doing so, they provide leadership and inspiration to girls and women, and increasingly – I hope – to boys and men.
Integrity is wholeness, the bonding together of all our parts. Or in the words of author and academic, Katrina Mayer, it is ‘making sure that the things you say and the things you do are in alignment’.
A Work In Progress
It hasn’t escaped me that I conduct my examinations from the dubious mantle of male privilege. I suggest it is wise to view with a measure of scepticism any charismatic white, male figure, proselytising before a captive audience. It may only be so long before he’s asking you to drink strawberry Kool-Aid or inject yourself with household disinfectant. Just putting it out there.
Today I feel closer than ever to living with integrity. I have a wonderful husband by my side and two beautiful children. And they constantly remind me that I’m definitely not the smartest person in the room. It took me decades to unravel the unhelpful narratives and belief systems that kept me tethered to self-deprecation and an unwillingness to live fully. I’m glad I began the journey and I look forward to its continuation.
Today I have the privilege of supporting others on similar (and different) journeys, through my couples and family coaching practice. I will always strive to do this from a place of honesty, integrity and respect.
…And not even a whiff of Pine-O-Clean.