This month we’ll explore the concept of integrity. Our friends at Soul Matters offer this: “C.S. Lewis was right when he wrote, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” Morality, honesty, knowing right from wrong - who of us would argue that these are qualities of a person with integrity?
“And yet our faith tradition has always been a little uneasy with leaving it simply at that. When it comes to integrity, the Unitarian Universalist take has always been as much about wholeness as goodness. Embracing the many aspects of ourselves has been more of a concern than perfecting every last aspect of ourselves. Indeed, we resonate with Quaker theologian Parker Palmer who writes, “I now know myself to be a person of weakness and strength, liability and giftedness, darkness and light. I now know that to be whole means to reject none of it but to embrace all of it.” Yes, says our religion, keep working at making yourself better, but along the way please don’t allow yourself to get so tangled up in perfection that you feel the need to hide those imperfect parts. This need to hide is what has always worried us UU’s the most. Integrity is most surely about honesty, but the honesty that seems to matter the most is the ability to hold an honest view of oneself.
“Which also involves enjoying that flawed self. When Palmer talks of “embracing it all” this is not a matter of somber resignation. There is a gladness involved. We can be whole without being perfect! To come to this realization is most surely the goal of any spiritual path.
“And there is yet another sense in which integrity calls us to gladness. Here the poet Rainer Maria Rilke puts it best: “May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” Here the call of integrity is not “Be perfect.” or “Be good.” but “Be yourself!” Know your center. Know what makes you uniquely you. And live from that place! Forget the masks. Forget the “shoulds” and the “suppose tos.” Just figure out what takes you to that place of deep gladness and to that remain true! This doesn’t mean abandoning the task of “doing the right thing when no one is watching,” says our faith; it just means that you will know what the right thing is when deep joy accompanies your choice.
“Integrity and joy. They are companions on the spiritual journey. May we encounter them both more deeply this month.”