“The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of the transgressors shall destroy them.” Proverbs 11.3 KJV
I like that Proverb, what about you? Though I am not big on the Bible, now and then I find a nugget I like, that is one of them.
Integrity, it does seem to be in short supply these days, whether we look at the world of business, the government or even at our personal lives. Have we all fallen short, forgotten what it means to live a life that is not just expedient, but instead is real and as the quote says, ‘upright’. I wonder, what does it mean to have integrity, to live with courage and by the courage of conviction.
I will admit, here and certainly, to myself, I have fallen short in the past. Fallen short out of fear. Fallen short because I thought I was protecting another. Fallen short because I was simply tired of fighting for my place. Fallen short because I didn’t understand what it meant to do otherwise.
I suspect we all fall short. I would also guess, those of us conscious enough to self-examine regret our fall from grace, even when the only person who knows is ourselves.
What is the test?
Do we fall short when we are afraid and thus fail to live up to our potential? Alternatively, is the real answer we simply choose expediency over integrity as the easy way through life, consequences be damned.
“Greatness lives on the edge of destruction”. Will Smith, Oprah show at 38.04 minutes
I think we fall short for a variety of reasons, some perhaps good reasons and others always terrible reasons. No matter the reason, if we have any self-awareness, we will always beat the hell out of ourselves afterwards. Perhaps we look back over our life and pinpoint those times where we choose convenience over a more difficult path, does this make us a bad person or simply average, normal. When we aspire to be more than we are, should we be held back by our past, by the stumbles we have taken?
My personal experience is fear is the biggest diversion. Fear takes many forms and places many stones in the path. Stumbling over those stones creates even greater fear, now I have stumbled; now I have lost my path and my place. Sometimes it is not enough to be sorry, in falling you take others with you. Sometimes losing futures, losing love and breaking dreams.
The two quotes are quite different, one says transgressors shall be destroyed, the other says we must get to the edge to be great. I think there is truth in both, to find our truth we must face down our fears and find our core, perhaps even to the edge of destruction. Once there though, once we are sure of ourselves and whole in our values, we must stop living by other people’s rules, stop fearing judgment and loss; stop choosing expediency over a life of integrity.
I think for any one of us to choose integrity all the time, we must first examine our fears, our losses and dreams. What does it mean to stand up to the crowd, to social pressure or even to a loved one’s demands? What does it mean to say “no, I will not do that”, say that or act in that manner simply to satisfy your wants when it is wrong in my heart? What does it mean to say to a boss “no”, what you are doing will cause harm to a client or is inappropriate. When we choose these things knowing it might cost us friends, loved ones or income, can we still choose? That I think is the core of both quotes is the loss better than the alternative; that I think is the choice we have to make.
We all fall short sometimes. I have certainly fallen short in my past and certainly regret those falls from grace. The odd thing is, I have also stood up and chosen the path of integrity, chosen to do the right thing, I paid for it. Now I know there is a price to pay for a fall and a price to pay for standing up. The difference is the price to pay for the fall is much higher, it is one you extract every day in self-recrimination.
I suspect many people struggle with some of these ideas. Today the world is full of so many examples of people who choose to stumble and stay down, I find it disheartening. Perhaps if more of us considered philosophically what it means to question our motives and apply integrity to our decisions and choices we would have a better world.
I leave you with my playlist for this one, it is how I was feeling as I wrote.
Counting Crows, Talks to Angels: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_5U0M9ErGA
Hootie and the Blowfish, Let her Cry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aVHLL5egRY
Tracy Chapman, One Reason: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3d3iWPXvErQ
Note: If you haven’t seen me visiting lately I have been sick since just before the new year. It has laid me low and I am only now getting over a beastly cold / infection. I will be back to visiting soon, hopefully I will stay out of bed long enough today to read and comment. It isn’t you it is me!