Growing up, I always equated the word integrity with honesty. Of course, honesty is a huge part of integrity, but it wasn't until I read a book by Rabbi Harold Kushner that I felt like I really understood the meaning of personal "integrity".
"Integrity means being whole, unbroken, undivided. It describes a person who has united the different parts of his or her personality, so that there is no longer a split within the soul."
I am a wild child.
I always have been. I've been told to "Just try and fit in." But I can't. I just see things differently than the culture I was raised in. The wildness in me wants to push back, do things differently, think other ways, maybe to come to the conclusion the rest of the pack has arrived at, or maybe not. Many people in my culture have tried to shame my wildness and from time to time, I've listened to the critics and my heart broke--and it broke because I was denying the very wildness that God put inside of me.
Last summer, I had a profound experience (which I won't go into here) and I finally "got it". I wasn't supposed to deny that wildness. I was supposed to embrace it. God put that wildness in my heart. And the wildness is the thing that allows me to be empathetic to others who feel like they don't fit in.
Just as the integrity of a ship is dependent on its hull being water tight, the integrity of my spirit means that I must embrace all those parts of myself that I would disown--usually because society tells me they aren't feminine. When I can value what being "bitchy" or bold has to teach me, then I can watch in awe as those gifts open up new paths to courage and compassion within my life.
God, the Universe, Source, (whatever you want to call it) dwells within us, as us. As YOU. As children, most of us are raised to believe that we have to make some cosmic transformation in order to be "accepted". The truth is, we don't need to change our personalities in order to connect with God. All we need to do connect to the Divine is to be our beautiful, glorious selves.
This isn't to say that we won't be tossed and turned and tumbled and humbled. Sometimes our tumbling will be the consequence of our own choosing. Other times it may come at the hands of others through judgement and unkindness. Still other times (as difficult as it may sound) our tumbling may come as a result of God wanting for us to learn a specific lesson. And the lesson will always provide us the opportunity (if we choose to seek it) to experience more love.
Sealing the split within ourselves and regaining our personal integrity only happens when we are authentic, honest and open with our own hearts. Living our integrity means we may make some people around us unhappy. But ultimately, living with integrity means that we get to cast off the shackles of other people's opinions of us (good and bad) and enjoy being ourselves, whole and undivided.
Only then can we have true joy.
Living with integrity brings me joy. What brings you joy?
"People follow different paths, straight or crooked, according to their temperament, depending on which they consider best, or most appropriate--and all reach You--just as rivers enter the ocean."
"Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen."