Mary Jane Ansell – Protection. Oil on Panel. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The first quote in my post highlights the supreme importance of our inner integrity as a ‘sacred’ and guiding principle. There is a sense that this quality needs to be revered within ourselves above all others.
Why is this, and what does integrity mean?
Perhaps the main reason is that there are many qualities that come under the umbrella of ‘integrity.‘ Here are just a few:
honesty, reliability, authenticity, courage, strength, wholeness, ethical, principled, moral,sincere, decent, truthful, trustworthy, stable, fair, honourable……
The word’s origin is in the Latin integritas, which means intact.
This aspect of the word’s meaning is important, as it refers to the fact that, in order to have integrity, we need to be whole, ‘got-together,’ and as aware of our inner selves as we can, in order to be integrated.
Jessica Gordon – A Dark Kind of Angel Oil on Panel. Gandalf’s Gallery.
“And what, incidentally, do you think integrity is? The ability not to pick a watch out of your neighbor’s pocket? No, it’s not as easy as that. If that were all, I’d say that ninety-five percent of humanity were honest, upright men. Only, as you can see, they aren’t. Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea.”
The quote above further refines the meaning of the word integrity, stating that it is not merely about being ‘honest’ or ‘upright.’
It is about belief, ideas, and principles, and having the courage to remain true to all these in a tough world and often despite others disagreeing with or criticising you.
It is also about self knowledge and being clear about one’s ethics and moral principles.
Roy Lichtenstein – Girl in Mirror Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Integrity means that you are the same in public as you are in private.”
This quotation refers to the important quality of authenticity. In relation to psychotherapy, it accords with Carl Rogers‘ theory of congruence on the part of the therapist, that is, being integrated and real, a genuine, sincere presence for the client in person-centred therapy.
Being the same behind closed doors as you are in the world outside demands a great degree of self understanding and impulse control.
It also involves ways of thinking about how we relate to others, much self-examination and the wish to be sincere and honest with ourselves and those around us.
A Sleeping Judge. Thomas Couture. Wikimedia Commons.
“Integrity has no need of rules.”
What did Camus mean by this statement? My interpretation is that he is saying that if we possess real integrity, we will not need external laws and regulations, we will know how to be from knowledge and awareness inside ourselves.
Camus is referring to the fact that we all need to take responsibility on a personal level for how we act in the world, rather than having to obey external standards and rules.
“Loving kindness is greater than laws; and the charities of life are more than all ceremonies.”
Sadly, though, it is not always feasible to trust people to be tolerant and accepting of others, because many do not have that level of integrity to function from their own free will, without harming others.
I often hear the phrase ‘It’s important to do the right thing,’ as a way of developing integrity.
However, I never really know what ‘doing the right thing‘ means.
Of course, it is clear that violence, bullying and abuse are certainly not ‘right.’ However, the phrase becomes a little unclear when we consider less obvious and more subtly personal issues.
It is impossible to ‘advise’ someone about what is ‘right’ for them, as we all have differing views, beliefs, needs and wishes.
Perhaps the phrase should be expanded into ‘doing the right thing for yourself.’ This, of course, assumes that individually we do have enough integrity to decide what is ‘right’ for us on a personal level, without harming others .
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. Frankl
Alexej von Jawlensky – Girl with the green face. Wikimedia Commons.
“He who closes his ears to the views of others shows little confidence in the integrity of his own views.”
This quote makes us think, and reflect upon its meaning.
It refers to the fact that, unless we are clear and confident about who we are and have thoughtfully considered our own opinions and ideas, we will be unable to listen to or accept the views of other people.
We will most likely be too threatened by, or envious of, the thoughts of others, as we have not yet clarified our own identity to ourselves.
The quote also implies that we need to develop a strong and secure sense of self before we can really listen to others and relate to them with integrity.
Erin Cone – Intact 
“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
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