What do we really mean by Integrity? A Reframe

What is integrity

For most men, integrity is a minefield.

It’s something we crave, yet also can be one of the most damaging to our sense of self esteem when we perceive we’re ‘out of it’ - and especially when we get beaten over the head with it.

I want to reframe it for you, and in doing so remove the minefield.

Out of Integrity feels like crap

I, like so many men I work with, had an ideal of what ‘being in my integrity’ was. It was a perfect state where my actions, words and thoughts were all completely aligned.

I’d have a sense of getting near it, or even being in it, and then I’d trip up, and my having been in it would seem like a self deception.

I'd put myself (or get put) through the wringer - an awful gnawing feeling in the centre of my being.

I’ve worked hard and deep to have a strong sense of self esteem, and a big driver has been my yearning to be in my integrity, yet feeling ‘out of integrity’ has been one of the most damaging and difficult experiences it climb back out of.

The Light Bulb moment

I was reading David Snarch’s book Passionate Marriage, and he has one small line in it where he says:

“Integrity and integration are one and the same. You’re describing a lack of integration between who you think you are and who you aspire to be.”

This sentence totally cracked my ideas of integrity open in the most exciting way.

It’s totally changed my ideal of integrity.

The problem: yes/no integrity

Taking it one step further, being ‘out of integrity’ is a lack of integration between our actions, who we think we are and who we aspire to be. It can involve two or all three areas.

The essential problem is that we define being in or out of our integrity as a yes/no idea. You’re in you’re out. In truth it’s a continual process.

Our aspirations of who we can be are always going to evolve in response to changes of action and ideas of self. A new idea of who we think we are will always take a little time to become embedded in our actions.

There’s always more to integrate, more to understand, more to grow into. And for most of us, there’s always going to be points in the path where a new realisation or an unconscious action has us feeling more or less out of our integrity.

The integrity reframe

So, there’s a far more powerful way to frame this idea.

If integrity is a processes, being ‘in our integrity’ is being in a place where we have nothing consciously outstanding to integrate into our being - it’s a place of consolidation.

‘Being out of integrity’ is being in a place where we have something consciously outstanding to deal with and to integrate, some misalignment of action, idea and aspiration to work on. An opportunity to grow.

An opportunity that’s likely going to feel like crap - but the depth of that ‘out of integrity’ feeling is a function of how profoundly we’re being called to learn and evolve.

A new approach: diving in

What I used to do was try to get away from the feeling of out integrity as fast as possible - doing what I needed to do to stop the feelings associated with it.

Now I dive in. I embrace the massive learning opportunity that’s been presented. I get really uncomfortable so I can get to the bottom of the misalignment.

With this perspective, ‘Integrity’ can be, rather than simply an ideal, a way of thinking about the active process of self creation.

The active process of integrating your experience of the world into your self understanding.

Being out is in the heart of the fire, having something new and powerful to integrate, being in is a powerful place of consolidation and deepening.

Can you get excited by being out of your integrity? You should. It presents one of the most valuable learning and growth experiences there is.