At the Crux of Integrity
Integrity is commonly understood as having qualities such as honesty, strong moral principles, and living in accordance with one's values. To me, it seems imperative to examine what such attributes are based upon. For example, is our honesty built upon our truth or a truth we have been conditioned to believe?
From my perspective, our soul's truth is at the core of integrity. Integrity is the ability to be undivided from one's truth and in alignment with one's inner wisdom, and from there, align one's ego/personality structure, set healthy boundaries without promoting separation, and dance gracefully between our light and our shadow.
In another article which includes an exploration of personal power, I write about how defining personal power is, in itself, empowering. The more concrete I define personal power, the more accessible it has become. I am finding the same for integrity; the more specifically I define it, the less abstract the path to enhancing integrity within myself.
When I was growing up, I was taught how to think, feel, and behave by people around me, such as family members, educators, and coaches, along with television personalities, the advertisement industry, the diet industry, the church, the news media, and on and on. From what I learned, I thought, felt, and behaved accordingly. For example, I was taught to fear God, and I was fearful. I was in alignment with the teachings that had very little to do with my truth, but the notions of truths handed down to me. However, as I have grown and examined my thoughts, emotions, behaviors, perspectives, and values, I have learned, and continue to learn, to separate what is in alignment with my soul and what is not. What is honest to my soul is the foundation of my personal integrity.
To me, integrity is about ensuring we are honest with our own truth, the absolute core of our beingness, and have defined our principles and values in accordance with our souls. Being completely honest with our ultimate truth may be difficult as it is constantly unfolding and is not totally understood. Therefore, part of my path toward integrity includes being willing to be receptive to the core of my truth, as well as asking questions such as: Whose truth am I being honest with? Whose principles am I abiding by?
Examining if what we have been taught is in alignment with our soul's knowing is essential to deep-rooted integrity. Someone could say that spanking children is okay and at the same time feel they are in their integrity. They might even feel right-minded or even noble-minded because this is their truth; therefore, they are being honest by upholding the reality they are indoctrinated to believe. I view ‘cultural honesty’ as deeply rooted cultural beliefs and constructed cultural notions of truth, which are relative because they are conditional, subjective, and flexible. The truth of our souls is not relative. I believe it is imperative to distinguish between cultural notions of truths handed down to us versus our soul’s truth; to differentiate between what culture says is moral behavior and the morals of our soul; to be honest with our own truth versus being honest with someone else’s truth.
Truth is not easily measured or totally understood on any level. Empirical truth created by scientific evidence, research, and reason can change through new discoveries. Our psychological truths that are learned and form our notions of reality may evolve as we progress on our paths. Our emotional truths may change over time. I know mine has, such as not feeling bothered by things that used to aggravate me. I don’t think of our soul’s truth as changing over time. Instead, I envision it as a truth that increases in our awareness as we gain more access to it. I think of our soul’s truth as a higher intelligence we have often been distracted and disconnected from, yet, it is progressively revealed through intentional nurturing of our intuitive unrestricted awareness.
Loyal to Truth or Conditioning?
Loyalty is considered an aspect of integrity to many people, including being loyal employees, family members, community members, and citizens of the U.S. Yet, our personal integrity and loyalty can clash with each other. For example, being loyal to the teachings of our family or culture might mean we are not in alignment with our soul-based integrity. Like many people, I grew up around a lot of racism. I was being conditioned to see ‘others’ in a certain way. If we don’t question the conditioning, we could say, yes, this is what I have been taught, and we are in integrity with seeing 'others' within a particular perspective. Yet, are they our principles - true to our soul - or a norm within some cultural structures?
As we outgrow our conditioning and become more aligned with our soul's truth, we may no longer be in alignment with the notions of truth and reality we've been accustomed to. A significant part of my path toward soul-based integrity has been questioning whether I am being loyal to my truth or loyal to my conditioning. Being aligned with and loyal to my soul's truth has sometimes felt like a form of betrayal to some structures. Oddly, the betrayal of some structures has felt like a form of integrity. Honoring loyalty as a part of integrity has meant questioning what teachings and ethics I am in allegiance with and disavowing those not in accordance with my truth.
There is a dance between loyalty, betrayal, and integrity. For example, a culture may define marriage as a bond that must never be broken. Yet, if domestic violence is present, one may choose to betray the structure of marriage in order to remain integral to themselves.
Courage to Follow Our Soul's Path
Anchoring into our personal integrity within the context of our families, workplaces, communities, and country when our guiding values, ethics, and principles differ from these structures can sometimes take courage. It may take courage to go outside our comfort zones, to break free of norms and conditions, and to stand for what is true for ourselves; ultimately, it may take courage not to betray our souls! It can take bravery to overcome the desire to be included and to fit in. Our earthly needs for acceptance and approval and the corresponding sense of safety and security from belonging might not be in alignment with our soul’s aspirations.
It is my perspective that our soul’s pilgrimage is to assist us with aligning with the purpose of our incarnation, all while encountering human experiences. The sacredness of our beingness did not come to the physical realm by coincidence. Thus, we can call upon our soul to reveal our purpose, for guidance, as well as for support in fulfilling our ultimate intention. When our souls reveal the next steps in our journey as something outside of our comfort zone, our souls can also provide any nervous aspects of us the courage to forge ahead, to overcome fears, and self-doubt about our abilities.
Our souls are there for us, even though the soul may challenge our personality structure. Our souls come with the remedies to help us connect with courage, strength to overcome challenges, as well as determination and perseverance so we may align with our soul's purpose while not being at odds with our human nature. To me, soul-based integrity is allowing our soul to work through us and with us. Integrity is life-expanding as it aids us in aligning with our truth and authenticity while supporting our humanness. For me, the more I am connected to my truth, the less I am governed by fear; the more I continue to increase soul-based integrity, the more I experience a subsequent decrease in conditioning.
This process can begin and be strengthened by being mindfully attentive to fears that restrict us from making decisions and taking actions that may be uncomfortable, yet, intuitively, there is an inner knowing that such decisions and actions are vital for our growth and for our fears to be dismantled. Paying careful attention to our internal conflicts often reveals cultural conditions that have created an armory around our souls. Thus, our soul's pilgrimage can be supported through mindful alertness.
My perspective is that our egos provide us with a sense of self; it is an essential component of our human nature as it holds the identity of the personality structure. It is the part of us that identifies with the name given to us for this incarnation and helps us individuate from the collective oneness, stand in our power, relate to others, and share our gifts. The ego allows us to function in the world and acculturate to the human experience. I view ego as a tool within the human experience, not a master of universal wisdom.
Since I perceive our egos as valuable, I do not believe our ego needs to be destroyed, as some claim is necessary for one's evolution and spiritual advancement. Instead, I feel the ego needs to be in alignment with our essence in order for us to cultivate soul-based integrity. Integrity is when the ego can welcome and dance with the soul while simultaneously recognizing its limits.
When our ego is out of alignment (either too strong or too weak), we may present as shy and awkward, or we may feel arrogantly exceptional. When our egos or sense of self are not strong, we can compromise ourselves by suppressing emotions and our voice, handing our power over, and allowing others to declare our truth or what is acceptable for us. Becoming inauthentic to be accepted can come at a significant cost, including a crisis of self. Establishing a strong sense of self, which includes both the personality structure and the nature of our souls, may prevent us from leaving a void that can be filled with the expectations of others.
There have been times when I have shrunken and not shown up, such as not sharing my point of view because it differs from the person I am speaking with. I have allowed the needs, perspectives, and wants of others to take priority as I remained a passive participant in my life because I didn’t know my worth, value my contribution, or see myself as equally important. I have also acted out of fear of rejection for who I am, so I kept myself hidden within a perceived sense of safety. Yet, I have realized that being safe is not about playing small; instead, it is about aligning with my truth and personal power.
I feel that the more our egos and souls align and work together rather than be at odds with each other, the more we can gracefully place ourselves, our needs, our perspectives, and our truths within the context of all that is. When we align our constructed personality with our soul’s purpose beautifully, we are neither shy nor arrogant; we simply are.
Setting Boundaries Without Promoting Separation
Part of asserting myself into my life has come with setting healthy boundaries within the context of all that is, including societal conditioning, expectations of others, as well as influences on my thoughts and emotions. Striving to be as sovereign and autonomous as possible has been essential for my integrity.
Maintaining personal boundaries that identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave toward me is absolutely essential. Yet, how I create the boundary is as important as the boundary itself. I can maintain the integrity of my boundaries, yet, set the boundary in a way that is not in alignment with my integrity. For example, yelling at a door-to-door salesperson who is trying to emotionally manipulate me into buying something I don't want or need is not in alignment with my soul's integrity. Establishing boundaries with people asking for more than I can give or people with abusive behavior is important to me. However, setting a boundary not laden with the judgment of others' lifestyles or behavior is also imperative.
Though I have needed space from certain people in my life, such boundaries have sometimes created a deeper sense of separation: me vs. them. I am continuing to learn the importance of establishing boundaries while not promoting separation; of setting boundaries in a way that acknowledges that we are all part of one big collective puzzle. We all have our place within the fabric of the universe, yet, not all puzzle pieces need to touch. For me, there is a significant difference between claiming my space from alignment, truth, and personal power versus claiming my space from aggression or judgment. Witnessing the soul within the person helps with discerning the behaviors of others that are not in alignment with my wellness versus judging them and setting a boundary with anger and resentment.
I have also learned not to create a personal boundary with a "thank you." For example, an acquaintance of mine attended a workshop I co-facilitated that ran overtime because someone began to share about her severe depression. I decided to be present with the person who vulnerably shared about her depression instead of the clock. The acquaintance emailed me about how I could better manage workshop structure. I could barely read the email because of the toxic energy that seemed embedded in the words. I wanted to delete the email without responding. Yet, I decided to write, "Thank you for your feedback," as a way to bring closure to the conversation and move on. Afterward, I could feel how out of my integrity it felt to say thank you for an energetically toxic email.
Establishing healthy boundaries has also come with a need to be very clear with my ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ After many years of saying ‘yes’ when I meant ‘no’ and saying ‘no’ when I meant ‘yes,’ I realized that I had allowed my yes/no to be hijacked by others around me. My ultimate “NO” is saying “NO” to my yes/no being hijacked. Today, I practice allowing my soul to work with my body to sense my yes/no; my yes feels like an opening in my heart, and my no feels like a contraction in my gut.
Creating boundaries also apply to finding ways of recognizing emotions from people around me without taking ownership of them. For many years, I jumped on the wagon that equated being a sensitive empath with someone without energetic boundaries; someone who didn't know where I ended and someone else began; someone that could easily be destabilized by feeling the feelings of others; one who could not sense what was mine and what belongs to other people.
Today, when I feel emotions from others, I have learned to receive them as information in the form of vibrational frequencies. I note to myself this is how their pain feels in my system. I don't declare that I know how they feel as I feel emotions through my nervous system, emotional body, and ultimately through my filter. Declaring that I know someone's truth through my filter would be me acting out of integrity. For example, an acquaintance asked me how I felt about a certain event. After I started to share my truth, he quickly interrupted me and said, "No, that is not how you are feeling. You are feeling upset." Not only was he incorrect about his perception of my emotions, but it was disrespectful to claim he knew my truth more than I did. If I believe I am sensing an emotion from someone, it is crucial for me to ask them their truth about how they are feeling.
As an empath, my goal is to maintain a strong sense of self and a knowing of who I am, even within the complexities of energies, including the collective consciousness. I choose to learn how to be a sophisticated empath versus a destabilized one. While listening to others, I work on remaining open, receptive, compassionate, and sensitive, as well as grounded and stabilized at the same time.
The Dance Between Our Light and Our Shadow
Within the realm of duality, soul-based integrity includes the dance between our light and our shadow, our inner critic and our personal power, our forgetfulness and remembrance, our hypnotic state and our potential. To me, encountering, challenging, confronting, and working with our shadow, rather than trying to suppress it or deny it, is the work of the soul. Accepting our shadows is a soul-based integrity.
We are all capable of love and hate, good and evil. Soul-based integrity is knowing we can operate from our shadow and choosing not to. While there may be parts of our shadow that are not ideal to engage with, there may be parts that want to be integrated into us. Bringing to light our insecurities, fears, repressed memories, and limiting beliefs can be the divine work of alchemy and a journey toward our authentic wholeness. Examining our shadows and uncovering how and where they were constructed in our lives can be a path to living our full potential.
To me, soul-based integrity is having the courage and humility to look at our shadow, challenge it when needed, and wield the sword of alchemy when necessary. It is also about taking responsibility for moments when we act from our shadow and behave in hurtful ways towards others.
To me, it is essential to get to know our soul so well that we feel when we are compromising our soul's integrity. Striving for soul-based integrity has meant having a well-established barometer letting me know when I am out of integrity. As mentioned earlier, when I sent a "thank you" in reply to the harsh email from an acquaintance, I felt a tangible unease in my heart. My body will also let me know when I am out of our integrity with a specific gut feeling that something is off.
In such moments, many lessons arise for me, including insights into why I fell short. Ultimately, such lessons reveal where I was operating from and help me self-correct. We can operate from many places, such as past traumas, fear, insecurities, a misaligned ego, triggers, and our shadows. When I fall short in my integrity, it is a great time to examine where I was operating from and consciously choose to continue cultivating a relationship where my soul can lead my life’s journey.
Getting to know our soul is an ongoing process, not an event. We can cultivate or diminish our connection to our souls within the context of our everyday lives. We can deny the truth of our soul and feel we are separating from this part of ourselves, or we can enhance this connection. For me, integrity is not about perfection but about striving to be in alignment with my soul to the best of my ability and holding myself accountable when I fall short. Soul-based integrity will be an ongoing exploration for me and something I strive to define and amplify as I continue on my path.