What we do for ourselves dies with us,. What we do for others is immortal.
I have bandied about the word Integrity a lot in the past little while and today I wanted to spend some time exploring it in higher detail,as I believe it is at the absolute core of a positive ad mature for of Manhood.
Webster’s New Dictionary defines integrity as “completeness, wholeness; unimpaired condition; honesty, sincerity, etc.”
I think that every one of these ideas helps for a whole picture of Integrity as it applies to a Human being: they both illustrate what integrity is, and how it affects us when we embrace it.
We are complete when we are healthfully engaging all parts of ourselves: our body, our minds, our culture, our families, and our needs together. If we deny or ignore any part of ourselves it has consequences.
To be complete we cannot ignore the basic truths of being a Man: we need competition, sex, respect, struggle, challenge, and exercise. If we deny our needs we are denying our body, and it will manifest itself in obsessions, addictions, emotional disturbances and illness.
We also cannot ignore the capacities of our mind. To be complete we have to challenge our mind. We have to respect our ability to put aside our emotions by doing so when it is good for our group or for ourselves. In relationships we have to be the ones to make the hard decisions.
At the same time, we can’t afford to ignore or discard our feelings. We have to try to asses our feelings, know when to act on them or express them. When the situation allows we have to act on them; we can’t be engines all of the time after all.
As we are part of a culture and a society, we can’t ignore it. We have to acknowledge that the people around us helped make us, and that there are good-intentioned people within that society. We have to honour and protect the people who make it a better place. We have to smoke out and declare war on the parts that have caused us pain in order to protect and honour the good parts.
We have to be willing to compromise between our needs and the needs of our culture in order to honour both, And that includes honour the basic male capacity for Sacrifice. We have to know when to lay down our own needs and wants and unselfishly work for the betterment of our families and our culture. If we fail to do this, we find ourselves acting childishly, only taking and never giving from our peers. When we place our own needs first over and over again, we become increasingly childish and greedy. It impairs our ability to think clearly.
Knowing that we are at our absolute best when we serve a family or a cause, to be complete we have to find ones that are really worthy, that coincide with our values, and bring us genuine joy, self-worth, and treat us with respect. We have to work not just to serve these causes, but we have to make them better, aid them in being in integrity, and teach them how to treat us.
When we are hurt or in pain, when there is something missing in our lives, we can’t give our all to our work, our families, or ourselves. We fall into survival mode. When we are struggling to just stay alive, it is easy to fall into temptation to hurt others and take selfishly. It is also to focus so tightly on what we need or the pain we are feeling that we can neglect other parts of ourselves: we let our bodies fall out of shape, become abusive in our relationships, retreat from company altogether and become lonely, fill emotional voids with vice like gambling or drugs, or let ourselves tumble into poverty.
Our first priority is to strive for wholeness of mind and body. If we are upset, we have to confront our feelings. If we are out of shape, it is necessary to get fit. If we are wounded, we should seek out someone who can help us get past the pain. If we are addicted, we have to break the habit. We cannot serve others or do the absolute best at our work if we are struggling just to survive.
Integrity means making a promise to yourself to be as healthy and strong as you can be. That means seeking help when we need it, even when that means swallowing our pride. It also means trying to be a positive presence in society, so that you have the support you need.
All men have challenges. Our abilities differ. Some of us are born with weaknesses that may never be overcome. For these we can do little except to understand what they are. But there are other impairments in our life that we have total control over, even if we don’t realize we do.
Addictions, bitterness, bottled-up feelings, and knee-jerk emotional biases may seem to be part of who we are. We know they are there, the ways they impede us can be pretty obvious, but they make us feel like we can do nothing about them. Sometimes they make us feel special; like no one can understand us. Sometimes they are comfortable, and losing them is too much work. Sometimes owning up to them is so shameful to us it hurts our pride to even try. All the same, they are keeping us from being whole, and preventing us from embracing the best parts of our culture. We need to acknowledge them and then seek help getting rid of them.
More insidious are the impairments we don’t even know we have. The beliefs about the way the world is and how we are that limit our behaviour or our imaginations. The man who thinks he’s no good at sports and never tries them cuts himself off from a team where he might find support and teaching. The man who thinks that you can’t fight a corrupt system will stay angry until it gives him ulcers rather than doing something to change the system, even what that is the perfect cause for him.
The only way to spot these roadblocks is to constantly reflect: to sit down, and ask what you really care about and what you want to see done in your life, measure how close you are to getting there. When you find your results aren’t measuring up you must ask yourself (or get someone to help you explore) why you aren’t getting the results you need.
Ignorance is another impairment we can have. It is impossible to know everything, especially the future results of our actions. It is important to be able to act with an incomplete picture. However, it is always in our best interests to go into any situation with as much information as we can so we can make informed decisions.
Equally important is keeping our minds open so that when we can use that information to the best of our ability. Suspending negative judgements, trying to make our information fit, being open to the possibility that it doesn’t, and being open to your own intuitions are all equally important. They help ensure that your mind isn’t impaired by either lack of information, or getting fixated on a poor understanding of the information you have.
You are only really complete when you can aim all of your power at the things that give you a sense of belonging and meaning.
You cannot trust a crook. It is a simple truth that we seem to have lost in our society. In all the shuffle of our Accelerated Culture, and the sound and fury of the Media, even basic ideas like that are readily forgotten. We certainly forget all the consequences of lies, deceit, and doule-dealing:
The liar cannot be trusted by businessmen to honour their deals. The liar cannot be trusted by friends with their secrets. The liar cannot be trusted by their family to be faithful. The liar cannot be trusted by their boss to do the work required with due dilligence. They cannot be trusted by a cause to represent them to the public – or with the resources to do their work.
Over time the liars, thieves, and cheats of the world begin losing grip on reality. When you justify so many of your activities, tell so many half-truths, and play so many mind-games you just disconnect with the world around you, and are stuck only with the one in your head. You lose the ability to measure of gauge your happiness or success in meaningful ways.
I don’t believe radical honesty and tactlessness are virtues, but honesty is at the core of Integrity. You can never hope to be happy, successful, or play a part if you cannot be trusted. You need to be trustworthy in order to get the most out of your society and your peers. More importantly, honesty breeds respect and admiration: things you need to get the most out of your relationships.
Not only must you cultivate honesty in action and word yourself, though, you also have to learn how to trust. You cannot expect others to feel good about honesty, your or theirs, if they are treated with suspicion and disrespect. Honesty without trust is meaningless and hypocritical.
Trust cannot be blind, but we have a habit in this culture of being very distrustful. We take no one at their word. Stores treat visitors like thieves, and businesses write contracts in a fashion that first takes into account the possible misuses of their Trust. We treat others with mistrust even before we ask ourselves “What would this person gain from breaking my Trust, and what would they lose? Would it even be worth it?” The answer is usually no.
We can exercise Trust by first exploring their possible motivations in a rational matter, second by exploring our intuition, and third by open communication. If we have a concern, we should raise it, and let the other person put our fears to rest. Once we have gone that far, and opened ourselves to Trust, we find that the only ruler we can judge people on is their actions. Honesty and Trust slay biases, bigotry, and victim mindsets.
Sincerity is more than just honesty and trust, although it relies on all of these things. In order to get along with people and be trustworthy, as well as to act with an unimpaired mind we have to act in a way that is genuinely built out of good intentions.
It isn’t always possible to wish everyone well. Certainly there are things in life we have to see as being harmful, destructive and toxic, and there is no point in wishing them well. The point is, however that when you see something you consider to be poisonous you have a choice: you can ignore it (which is no good for you, your cause, or your culture), you can lash out at it because it is hateful, or you can instead act against it because you want what’s best for the people around you.
The latter two might seem to lead to the same result, but the impact is very different on the actor. When you lash out at something you despise, you are simply looking to end a problem. You aren’t trying to understand it, change it, or acting out of service in doing so. You have limited your ability to do your best for yourself, your family, your cause, or your culture. Lashing out is a missed opportunity.
Examining your own motivations, and acting only out of the ones that are in line with your life goals is the surest way to ensure you are working in a way that serves you best, and is in line with a whole, complete, and unimpaired person.
The Rewards of Integrity
For Men the rewards of integrity are incredibly high. When we approach our relationships with Integrity, we are rewarded with respect and belonging… two of our most powerful needs. Because we are trustworthy we can move to a position where we can do the most good and get the best feedback for our efforts. Our needs are met in the healthiest possible way.
In personal relationships, Integrity is the key to being charismatic and appealing. Others feel safe with a person of Integrity. For women that feeling of safety is a necessary prerequisite for being open emotionally and sexually to a man. Moments when a man acts with his greatest Integrity, even when that means saying no to his woman, are the moments when he carries some of his greatest sex appeal.
Integrity makes it possible to find the greatest sense of Meaning from our peers and causes, with all of the benefits to our health and wellbeing included.