Integrity

         The practices I have been writing about over the last two weeks– the ones that draw us into communion with God and those that lead us into a deeper acceptance of the totality of who we are–lead us to integration, into wholeness through healing our brokenness(the Spirit’s job)and through our surrender(our job) to the higher, deeper purposes of our lives. Integrity is an alignment of the disparate parts of ourselves, the shadow and the ego, the soul and the psyche, the body and the mind. When all parts are aligned, we are fully expressing who we were created to be. Before the Holy Spirit brings about a lot of healing we’re like a six-cylinder car running on 3 cylinders, coughing and poking along; when all six cylinders are engaged, we’re cruising, because all the available power is being directed to one purpose—the forward movement of the car. The car on six cylinders is fulfilling the promise of its maker.

          Our task if we are to live fully, soulfully, lovingly, is to integrate all the rejected parts of ourselves, to bring them into a healed place where they can make their full contribution to our lives. That’s what living fully means: to be expressive of all that we are, not rejecting one part over another as more valuable. So what parts, dreams, talents, traumas, the inner child, are you denying, rejecting, outlawing? Claiming all that we are is the route to wholeness.

         Integrity means to stand straight and tall in oneself, knowing all that we are and rejecting none of ourselves, loving ourselves, not apologizing for who we are, because we know all that we are and are at peace with ourselves. This is what it means to be healed by God—there is no inflation of ego or false humility. There is no apology or condemnation for oneself. There is only love, acceptance, embrace, and patience. There is no projection of one’s shadow out onto another—thereby demonizing the other for our faults, there is only a calm acceptance of one’s flaws and one’s gifts. There is nothing to prove, there is only giving back to Life, to God, what one has received, expressing in the world fully who we are and what we care about.

        Jesus, to me, was a man who knew who he was and what he was about. He was not beholden to anyone, but always brought his full self to every encounter. It was the Pharisees bringing the question of paying taxes to Caesar who called Jesus a man of integrity—flattering him, sneering at him– while they tried to trip him up, a story told in both Matthew and Mark. They asked him if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus, knowing that they were trying to trick him, asked whose picture was on the Roman coin. Then he said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:21[NIV] The Pharisees went away amazed. Jesus was a man of integrity, but also very wise. 

        I found the truth about integrity in this quote from Hamlet which I had thought was from the Bible, it was so full of truth to me:

        “To thine own self be true,

          And it must follow,

         as the night the day,

         Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

And what is this falseness? It is catering to someone else’s needs, forgoing my own. It is not knowing who I am, and putting more importance on another’s opinion of who I am to be. It is living a life I was not designed to live. It’s living out the cultural paradigm and missing out on the richness of my own potential. It’s operating on three cylinders. It is a “sin” in the Hebraic sense of missing the mark: not being all that I am meant to be.

        Integrity is about wholeness, about being healed of all wounds, about being true to myself, true to the God who created me, true to God’s agenda for my life. I believe that we can’t find our own integrity without God’s help. Only God can see how to get us to where our integrity resides—where we are integrated in heart, mind, soul and body. So achieving our own wholeness lies in our relationship with God, with surrendering our ego’s needs and the cultural dictates that undergird how we think and feel and expect and judge to God’s vision of our lives. How we move towards our own integrity then seems to be an individually designed curriculum for an integrated life that unfolds step by step, until one day we realize that we are at home in all that we are, that we have no apology to make, nothing to do that doesn’t rest in our own creation, that we are loved and able to love, and that we are doing the work that we were created to do, that we are resting in God and in God’s promises for us.

        Love and integrity are the goal and the promise of the spiritual journey. Without love, there is no integrity; without integrity there is no love. They are like the flip sides of the same coin. Looking back to Jesus again, how could he love all the people he did, especially the not-powerful people, the marginalized in 1st century Israel, if he was not sure in himself  who he was. He would have catered to the Romans and the Pharisees and others in order to establish his own sense of power. He would have ignored the downtrodden, the blind, the lame. He would not have felt called to heal others, if he had not been healed himself. He would have given into Satan’s temptations. He would have been one of us, an ordinary man or woman, but he rose above those temptations, he gave of himself to whoever approached him, he taught even when those teachings were not popular or went against the powers-that-be.

        So, too, we need to live into our own internal sense of power, not of power over others, but the power of integrity and love. It is a journey, gradually gaining the use of all six cylinders, but if that is your goal, it is well worth the ups and downs of the passage.

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