Integrity is a quality of being. It means holding on at all times to your highest sense of truth and your own vision, whatever the cost may be. It consists in resonating with the most intimate fiber of your being and enjoins us not to withdraw one inch, whatever the prestige or authority of the person or institution opposing us—not out of obstinacy but because of the quiet courage of an inner voice that says: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
Integrity means following at all times one’s highest sense of what is right, whatever the consequences may be, however solitary your path, and however loud the taunts and the mockeries of the crowd and the Pharisees.
Following your integrity means “speaking truth to power,” as the Quaker wisdom goes, even when silence would better serve your interests. It means hanging on to truth when all those surrounding accept compromises or pretend that it’s not really important. It means being unflinching and firm when others disappear in the underground shelters of their fears and timidity.
Integrity means refusing to dilute one’s inner sense of truthfulness, be it to satisfy, appease, or gain the approval of one’s beloved.
Above all, integrity means refusing to cheat yourself, lie to yourself, or abide in the shade of half truths. You can lie to others—even deceive them—and be forgiven. But when you lie to yourself, who is there to forgive you? After a defeat of this sort, who will help you get up again? Even if you are sufficiently ignorant to let yourself indulge in the supreme absurdity of deceiving yourself, will not your inner strength abandon the ship of he who voluntarily scuttles it in that manner? In such moments, grace alone can save you.
To deceive oneself kills the discernment that is the basis of honest judgments and meaningful choices. To consciously avoid what one knows to be true or to lie to oneself is the sin against the spirit, which resides deep down in each one of us.
Integrity, as the most intimate substance of our being, constitutes the marrow of our identity and the foundation of all our qualities, starting with love. It is the woof on which we weave the exquisite textures of our existence, creating a tapestry. No woof, no tapestry. When integrity is married to love in a joyful dance, it forms the perfect couple, and our existence becomes a celebration of life.
So, when winds and tempests howl or when a tempter whispers that “a compromise is absolutely essential” and attempts to make us avoid the challenges we need to grow and stay awake, let us at all costs hold on firmly to that inner foundation, our integrity—for in it resides true life.
Pierre Pradervand is an author and spiritual mentor to many. Excerpt above from his upcoming book, Gentle Art of Discernment.