I try to stick to the subject of Gold, but do sometimes wander. There is a Gold connection in the following, but I acknowledge that it is rather tenuous and, for the purpose of the article, not important.
Integrity is composed of the discipline to view reality honestly, the intelligence to understand it correctly and the courage to act on it in accord with that honesty and intelligence. The word has travelled down to us from Roman times…
Integrity c. 1400, “innocence, blamelessness; chastity, purity,” from Old French integrité or directly from Latin integritatem (nominative integritas) “soundness, wholeness, completeness,” figuratively “purity, correctness, blamelessness,” from integer “whole” (see integer). Sense of “wholeness, perfect condition”.
I choose to condense that into meaning ‘the wholeness of the being’. Integrity is simply knowing what is right and wrong for oneself, and then living in faithful accordance with that knowledge.
Those who are dishonest, cannot see reality and can never have integrity. Those who are honest and intelligent, but are low on courage, cannot have integrity. Those who are honest, but have a low intelligence can have integrity, for courage is more important than IQ.
An honest and intelligent person with courage has an integrity that transcends our hum-drum lives and merges with the spiritual. Spirituality is not some vague and wafty concept that comes about after death – ‘up there’. It is of the here and now, or can be.
This courage is not of the derring-do deeds type; any fool can charge a machinegun nest. It is the courage to steadfastly hold to what one knows to be true, despite the opposing howls of the mob. That is real courage.
Who you are today is the product that you created yesterday. What you are creating today will be who you will be tomorrow. The Buddhists talk of Karma and the Christians of reaping what you sow. All very true, but what does it really mean, and why is it so and how does this come about?
We do wrong when we transgress against that which we, as individuals, believe. Sure there is a legal wrong as well, but that is a broad-brush standard applied to a society – a one-size-fits-all approach that has a more limited use.
We quite often casually break the law and the only penalty is a financial one. How many of us do not speed when we think that we can safely get away with it? If we have to pay a speeding fine do we sit around filled with remorse for the wrong that we have done? Not at all, we are simply annoyed with ourselves for being caught. At best, doing right or wrong has a rather loose connection with the law.
Doing wrong in its more important sense is defiling one’s own sense of integrity. And this has a far heavier penalty than a mere financial one. When we violate our integrity then it might not be noticed by others, but it will always be noticed by ourselves. Not only noticed, but remembered. Not only remembered but etched deeply in the soul. The conscious memory will eventually fade but, while the details become clouded over, the corrosive lessening of one’s sense of self-worth continues forever. Each such violation of our integrity is an assault upon our self -respect; an act of self-harm on the spiritual level.
A person’s integrity is theirs to treasure and protect. There is a right and there is a wrong for all of us. When we honestly lay bare our soul for self-scrutiny then we know this beyond any shadow of a doubt. Sometimes we do something and feel good. This is because it accords with our own sense of integrity. Sometimes we do something and feel bad. If you feel bad about something, then you have violated your own sense of integrity. For those times that you do something and feel bad about it, then correct it immediately, or you are damning yourself to yourself.
Right and wrong exist only in the context of a system of values. We all have our own system of values and those who are happy and doing well in life are those who are abiding by those values. They are being true to their own integrity.
Each deviation from our own sense of right and wrong piles one more mote of unhappiness onto our accumulation of transgressions. Nothing can make up for this sullying of self-respect. No stolen item, no matter how valuable and wanted, can compensate for the loss of one’s own integrity. Even an unnecessary, unkind word can violate one’s sense of integrity. We all know instantly when we violate our integrity. We feel bad. Deep down we feel and know that it was wrong. Our conscience pricks us. Sometimes we pretend that it was okay because… place a million excuses here… but underneath our self-serving logic we really know that it was not okay.
Usually, integrity does not vanish overnight. It is a slow, yet steady slide, an incremental diminishment of a vast pile of ideals, until, one day, all self-respect has gone.
The old person who is bitter and twisted by what life has done to them has, in fact, only his or her own lack of adherence to their integrity to blame. Self-respect and happiness are two sides of the same coin. Self-respect comes from a strict adherence at all times to one’s own sense of integrity. The most obvious manifestation of self-respect is happiness.
The word that covers all this very well is ‘consequence’. It is a wonderful word full of a meaning that has all but been lost by familiarity. It simply means ‘with sequence’. As night follows day, so lack of self-respect and unhappiness follows on the heels of violations of one’s own integrity. Unhappiness is not the result of what others have done to the unhappy person. It is the result of what the unhappy person has done to him or herself. There are consequences for all that we do, and they are inescapable. Each of us is our own harshest judge, for we see all, hear all and know all. Nothing is missed, nothing is ever forgotten. In extremis, the judge can also become the executioner.
Seek out and nurture your integrity and never compromise it, for by its strict observance you create your own wholeness of being and your own level of happiness.
Until you can look back and see that it was you, and only you, who created your today, then you will be unable today to start creating a better tomorrow. Blame plays no part, as blame is merely the water that buoys the ship of unhappiness. There are no such things as luck or misfortune, no such thing as arbitrary reward or punishment. There is only ‘Karma’, or, ‘reaping what you sow’, and these simply refer to consequences.
“Sooner or later we sit down to a banquet of consequences”. Robert Louis Stevenson