Moving Toward Integrity

Have you ever realized that you were not acting according to your beliefs, ideals, or values? You are certainly not alone if you answered, ‘yep!’

Just ask any parent. Children mimic our words, actions and attitudes, mirroring in their own ways just how we are presenting ourselves to the world. It’s not always pretty.

Our western world is particularly adept at separating thinking from feeling, ideas from actions, plans from convictions, and far more. We may claim to be non-violent, but find ourselves being downright disrespectful toward someone — especially oneself! (That’s my personal favourite.) We may say we value deeply connecting with people, but find ourselves superficially spending more time on-line than we do with them in person. The list is endless.

The easiest one to pick on is religion. “Hypocrites!” we yell. “You confess to a ‘God of love’ but judge others according to their sexual orientation, religion, gender or theology!” (Watch: we, too, can become “holier than thou!”)

Politics is another popular arena. Of course the realities of governing can mean changes in the thinking of those elected. So, too, all parents find some or many of their ideals are altered or dropped once they begin to have children — even without having to satisfy their campaign donors or political party!

The third arena can be seen in social movements. Such disconnects between values and actions can be subtle, such as some who oppose abortion while also calling for the death penalty (which can end the lives of innocent people), or a social justice group that itself acts unjustly, or “green” minded folk who themselves do little to really reduce their own carbon footprint. Many of us in North America are guilty of this hypocrisy.

All of us lack congruence, although perhaps few of us are aware of our own. It is easier to criticize others than to realize our own disconnects.

How can we tell when we’re doing this? One test is to be aware when we are judging others (this is often a reflection of what we don’t like in ourselves). Another is to write down our values and compare this list to our actual actions and words. Involve someone whom you trust and who is honest. Denial is harder this way.

When I realize I am not living by my beliefs, values or priorities ideally my first step is to be gracious toward myself. I am human! Then I can gently explore how this incongruence came to life (hints: our environment and advertising). Ideally with the support of others I can then begin to bring my values and practises into alignment. A totally freeing and energizing exercise!

When I realize I have dishonoured someone, including myself, by failing to live up to what I believe, I try to own up to it with them/myself, and ask for forgiveness. Wow! This releases wonderful energy, and usually improves my connections. Totally worth the hit on my ego!

Here’s to harmony!

Ian Gartshore is a local writer and an integrating human being.