Integrity is a quality of being. It means holding on, at all times to your highest sense of truth and your own vision, whatever the cost may be. It consists in resonating with the most intimate fibre of your being which enjoins us not to withdraw one inch, whatever the prestige or authority of the person or institution opposing us. And this, not out of obstinacy, but because of the quiet courage of an inner voice which says: “This above all: to thine own self be true…”
Integrity means following, always, one’s highest sense of what is right, whatever the consequences may be, however solitary your path and however loud the taunts and the mockeries of the crowd and the pharisees.
Following your integrity means “speaking truth to power” as the Quaker wisdom goes, even when silence would better serve your interests. It means hanging on to truth when all those surrounding you accept compromises or pretend “It’s not really important”. It means being unflinching and firm when the others disappear in the underground shelters of their fears and timidity.
Integrity means refusing to dilute one’s inner sense of truthfulness, be it to satisfy, appease or gain the approval of one’s beloved.
Above all, integrity means refusing to cheat yourself, lie to yourself or abide in the shade of half-truths. You can lie to others – even deceive them – and be forgiven. But when you lie to yourself, who is there to forgive you? And after a defeat of this sort, who will help you get up again? And even if you are sufficiently ignorant to let yourself indulge in the supreme absurdity of deceiving yourself, will not your inner strength abandon the ship of he who voluntarily scuttles it in that manner? In such moments, Grace alone can save you.
To deceive oneself kills the discernment which is the basis of honest judgments and meaningful choices. To consciously avoid what one knows to be true or to lie to oneself is the sin against the spirit which resides deep down in each one of us.
Integrity, as the most intimate substance of our being, constitutes the marrow of our identity, and the foundation of all our qualities, starting with love. It is the woof on which we weave their exquisite textures on the tapestry of our existence. No woof, no tapestry. When integrity is wed to love in the joyful dance of her or him whose existence is a celebration of life, it forms the perfect couple.
So, when winds and tempests howl or when the tempter whispers “A compromise is absolutely essential” and attempts to make us avoid the challenges we need to grow and stay awake, let us at all costs hold firmly on to that inner fountain constituted by our integrity – for in it resides true life.
Pierre Pradervand, La vie simple, Jouvence editions 1999