Integrity is a word that is used a lot, especially in leadership literature. Generally, it is defined with an easily flung off “do as you say you will do” kind of definition. Leaders are told to be sure that everything they do and say is consistent. That people learn to rely on them to be exactly what they claim to be.
As though congruency is an easy trait. In my experience, it becomes harder and harder to act in total congruency with our thoughts, beliefs and values as we travel through life. What once seemed so clear to me becomes muddy. I see shades of grey where once there was black and white.
I love working with young, bright people. One of the refreshing traits of youth is idealism and optimism. This is often demonstrated with an “either/or” mentality. A young person can get downright stubborn about sticking to their guns. Contrariness is a way of asserting self. Of saying, here I am and here’s what I stand for – so there. Without the experience of reality to muddy the waters, it is refreshing to see so clearly. How do we, who have the wrinkles of time spent living, get to a comfortable place of integrity?
How do we stand for what is right, without being “close minded” and blind to the world around us?
When do we decide to pick a spot and stay there – even when others push us to move off?
I’ve found it requires time. It takes time to do the tough work of examining our beliefs and reaffirming, or revising, them. It starts with stopping. Noticing our initial reactions to what is before us, but not basing our behaviours and comments just on that. So when my stomache is tight and my blood is racing, I can notice that. I can say “how interesting” and not decide that I must be right and you must be wrong, else why would my blood be boiling?
It takes time to sit and let things steep inside for a while. Time alone (just me and my journal) asking deep questions like, what’ s really going on? What do I own and what do others own? What am I pushing away and what should I consider embracing? Sleeping on it. Rolling it around in my daily reality. Challenging whatever I haven’t challenged before.
This can take days, weeks, even years. And sometimes the clarity comes. A peaceful feeling of “rightness” is what I mean. The knowledge that all is right with the world, and that your part of it is both significant AND insignficant. A feeling that you are connected to others in many ways and at many levels. And that the connection is not reliant on simply agreeing with whatever is going on.
With this comes the realization that you can stand up for what you know is right, even in the face of opposition or the loss of popularity. As long as you have taken the time to own your decision. And as long as you remember that is is yours to own. So stand there.