|An unrelated photo, but can you believe this view is 5 minutes from my house??|
I was reading about integrity recently—in a book I’ve been picking up here and there over the past few months (one of those that I have to read in portions because it invites me to change my beliefs and that can be harrowing). I’ve been thinking a lot about that word integrity because it’s a big principle and I haven’t always been able to easily define it. I know I want it and I think I know what it feels like, but I’ve needed a better grasp on it. Then I read this quote: “Personal integrity is one of the most important guardians of mental health. Put simply, integrity is the absence of contradiction between what we know, what we profess and what we do.”
I think that’s an interesting claim…that my mental health is guarded by my own attempt at personal integrity. What a contradiction to the more popular belief that mental health is guarded by the removal of pain (of which I have never consciously agreed with, but maybe unknowingly practiced). I like this idea because it places happiness and sanity in my own hands. And I find the claim to be true—when I am fragmented within because of a behavior that is not in accordance with a belief, I feel lost and anxious and broken. Even a seemingly small decision can leave me reeling if it’s incongruent with a bigger belief.
Here’s the beauty: while the world would tell us that those fragmented feelings can be "fixed" with distraction and addiction (numbing the pain)…God tells us that those fragments can be made whole by recognizing and repenting of them. Even in a moment as insignificant as when I’m feeling gross because I ate too much of something I know is not good for my body—I can say “forgive me, Father…” and that begins an honest conversation with a very wise Being who can give me both the strength to choose better next time and the love to put those broken fragments back together again. Think of this personal and beautiful experience compared to the other option of ignoring or numbing the broken pieces and inevitably forming self-destructive beliefs about myself and my ability to change.
Before we get to this broken-hearted moment with the Lord I love realizing that integrity is the issue at hand--that somehow I am not aligning my thoughts and actions with what is true. In thinking about the numberless reasons that we make these incongruent choices, I’ve realized that it really boils down to two: ignorance and/or fear. Either we do not have enough information about ourselves, others, or God to choose better…or we do not have the courage to do so. Certainly true integrity requires a level of self-awareness that does not come passively or without a lot of discomfort. We are required to be real about why we do the things we do (or don’t do the things we should), which will likely require assistance from those who have our best interest at heart, namely a kind Heavenly Father. This I choose because I really do want to be both aware and courageous.
I’ve decided to daily ask myself more questions about any double-mindedness. Who do I need to apologize to? Who do I need to forgive? Who do I need to thank? What excuses have I been making? What do I need to communicate to someone? What do I believe about myself that is unkind or unrealistic? I already know that repairing the contradictions in my soul leads me to feel more upright…and certainly more whole. I’m beyond grateful for a plan that not only allows me to be repaired (a person of integrity), but also gives me the hope that I can be.