The Union Path Podcast - A practical spiritual podcast about truth, awareness, and walking the path of unity.
The Union Path Podcast
"Integrity Is Precious"
Life seems to be filled with some consistent, persistent messages. In a lot of ways, life seems to be saying the same thing over and over again. As a teacher, life seems to be trying to teach us the same things over and over and over again. One of these lessons, one of these fundamental truths, is that integrity is precious. Integrity has value, integrity has worth, integrity matters. Of course, we've all heard this over and over and over again.
Every spiritual or religious text or tradition repeats this Ethnosium that it's good to be good, it's good to be honest, it's right to live in a right way and it's important In a lot of ways. It's a skill, it's something we have to develop. It's a discipline that has to be worked on, has to be earned over time. We're not granted and will forever hold this idea of integrity. It's a idea being trustworthy, this idea of being good. It's something that has to be redone, it has to be re-upped, it has to be maintained, it has to be consistent and ongoing in order for it to really be real. But I think the lesson embedded in this is much more important, much more useful, much more valuable than simply moralizing and simply saying so-and-so has integrity, so they're a good person, or so-and-so has no integrity, so they're a bad person. That is really more about the worth of our own life, the worth of our own life to us, where things like integrity really have value, really actually matter. Because, of course, no one wants to go through life as a scoundrel, no one wants to go through life as a criminal, no one wants to go into life just taking everything they possibly can from everyone they possibly can. No one sets out to do this.
It's some people, it seems, through external observation anyway, end up following this sort of path, end up doing this. We may know people exactly like this and once we know this, once we know this about someone, there's a natural repellent quality to it In all of our relationships. What's the main thing that can really cause us to want to get away from someone else? What's the main thing that can cause us to find someone really repugnant, really repellent? Usually it involves some type of deception, some sort of lying, some sort of dishonesty. In a lot of ways, it's not so much what people do. It's at least as much, if not more, how they do it, the spirit that they do it with, the energy that they do it with. And if that energy belies some sort of deception, some sort of lying, some sort of manipulation, some sort of trick, then it makes the wound that action is created deeper, it makes that injury more profound, because there's something to this idea about trust and faith that actually matters, that is inherently good and at some level we know it. On some level we know it especially when it comes to ourselves, because, if we're honest. We can all acknowledge that ill-gotten gains, things that we've gotten through our own deception, through our own manipulation, through our own trickery, bring about hollow at the very least, are extremely temporary, don't really give us any sort of lasting gratification. And so we're immediately on to the next, on to the next thing. And if we've learned that the way we get what we want is through grift, is through tricking others, is through manipulation, then that's what we'll continue to do Again.
No one chooses this at face value, but we can easily fall into habits where we trade away our own integrity. Sometimes it's the first thing we jettison when we're confronted with a possibility that we might not actually get what we want. We can let our own greed, we can let our own self-centeredness get in the way, cause us to act in a way we don't really want to act, cause us to do things we don't really want to do, cause us to be in a way that isn't really us. Because that idea of losing our own integrity, that idea of not being trustworthy, that idea of not doing the good or the right thing, implies some sort of corruption, implies in some sort of way. We've been compromised, and it's usually in ways that we've compromised ourselves, we've fallen far short of our own ideals or even our own ideas about who we really are, and we've chosen to do this, usually for some sort of personal gratification or gain.
And often it isn't until we've actually lost our integrity that we understand how precious integrity actually is, when, if we were paying attention, if we look at what we value in other people, that's actually one of the things we value the most. How solid is this other person? How reliable is this other person? How much of the truth is this person actually expressing? How much can I see who this person really is? How much of themselves do they try to remain hidden, do they try to distract and deflect away from?
Because when we want to cross people that either we think or we know are untrustworthy, are unreliable, it's almost like we're running across someone in some way as a contagious illness. We know we don't want to really be close to this person, we don't really want to spend a lot of time with this person Because we don't want our life experience infected by their dishonesty, by their lack of integrity, by their lack of wholeness, by their lack of forthrightness, because in groups especially, negative and destructive and toxic behavior really is a contagion, really can spread. Because the easiest time for us to lose our integrity is right after we've been mistreated, right after when we've been done wrong, because now we feel justified, now we have our indignation activated and triggered, now we feel like we can balance the scale by retaliating, by getting our revenge, perhaps through treating others as badly as we feel we've been treated. But again, there's a reason why every spiritual belief system coaches us and coaxes us away from this sort of behavior, because when we engage in dishing out mistreatment for the way that we've been mistreated, we're simply writing that spiral down, we're choosing more of it, we're including ourselves in it, because there really is something to be said, something to be valued about being comfortable in our own life. I think you can make the argument that that's what true security is, that's what true confidence is, is a level of comfort with ourselves. It's a level of comfort with whom, what we really are. It's a level of comfort with the way that we actually live our life, with the way that we actually are, with the way that we're actually being, with the expression that flows forth from us as being a reflection, an authentic reflection of who we really are, an expression of our own value system, an expression of our sense of right. And I believe, anyway, that we're coached into this kind of behavior because that's how we actually attain, or at least make progress towards, fullness.
Fulfillment, meaning the things we actually want, the things that lie underneath all of our other wants and desires and needs Connection, connection to ourselves, connection to something bigger, connection to other people. A true connection isn't possible if there's corruption that's active. If we ourselves are corrupt, if we ourselves are acting in a corrupt way, then we will corrode all of our relationships. We will prevent any sort of bond from being very deep, from being very meaningful, from being very durable. We will be undoing the very connections in our lives. Through our negative behavior, we will be negating the very connections that we want to create, that we want to sustain that there is inherent value in integrity, there is inherent value in honesty. There is inherent value in doing the right thing. There is inherent value in being a good person, whatever that means to us Again, not from some sort of moralizing or comparison perspective.
That there is inherent value in doing the right thing, because this is the most direct path, this is the shortest path to what we actually want that, all of these shortcuts that compromise seems to try to sell us. If we can just give away this part of ourselves, that we can just overlook this bad behavior, then we just do the thing that will be the most expedient, quickest way, to our own gratification, to getting what we actually want. In a paradoxical way, actually separates us from what we really want. It sets us up to be constantly running on this hamster wheel of dysfunction and bad behavior, meeting other people terribly just to try to get what we want. This is where self-awareness is really useful, is really valuable, Because no matter how good we think we already are, no matter how good of a person we think we already are there is always room for improvement.
We're never as virtuous as we think we are. We're always more self-centered than we think we are. We always exhibit and express more weakness than we think we do. And the point of this realization, the point of knowing this, isn't to judge or castigate ourselves. It's to help us learn. It's to help us grow, help us be aware of things that we don't actually want to do, help us be aware of ways we don't actually want to be, help us understand what's actually important to us, what actually matters, what actually has meaning, and then act accordingly. Use this information, use this knowledge to inform our actions.
Then, when we start imbuing our life with integrity, our life naturally changes. Our life starts to naturally reflect something back that if prior, we'd always just taken shortcuts, we'd always just done the easiest thing, we'd always just done whatever was for our own maximum gain, without any thought about anyone or anything else. Our life gets imbued with an energy that's different, that feels a lot more solid, feels a lot more fundamental, especially if we've been going through life deceiving other people. There's an element of that life where we can never stop running. We can never stop, we can never rest. We feel like the truth is right on our tail and if we don't keep moving, it's all going to fall apart, it's all going to be exposed, it's all going to be destroyed. Versus, if our life is grounded in the truth, our life is grounded in integrity, if our life is grounded in at least the attempt of trying to do the right thing, to try to live in a right way, they don't have that sense of being chased, we don't have that sense of impending doom, of foreboding destruction right behind us. We can actually breathe, we can actually be, but, more than anything, we can actually be free.
It's just one of my core beliefs that, ultimately, no matter what we want, whatever it is any sort of possession, any sort of circumstance, any sort of relationship, any sort of outcome for anything that there's really only a fundamental few things that we actually want. That we could boil all of those desires down to just a few ideas, and one of those ideas is freedom. Through all of our striving, through all of our attainment, through all of our goals, a lot of times, all we really want is to be free. All we really want is liberation. All we really want is to really have a sense of freedom in our own life, to not feel subject to our own life, to not feel subjugated by all the relationships and circumstances in our life, to actually have a sense of autonomy, actually have a sense of agency, to actually have a say in how our own life goes. And one of the things we experience by living a life of integrity, by living a life of high integrity, is a similar high level of freedom, Because important, vital aspects of life, like freedom, are never given.
They have to be claimed. We actually have to claim freedom in our own life. No one can give it to us. No circumstance can deliver freedom to us, because if it did, then we'd just be beholden to that person or circumstance. We wouldn't actually be free. Instead, we'd be bonded to that person or circumstance. But when we claim our own freedom, and we claim our own freedom through our own discipline, through our own behavior, through our own decision, that being free actually matters. It is actually what we want.
And one of the ways we can claim our own freedom is by claiming or reclaiming our own integrity, not being subject, not being a slave to all the falsehoods and the stories that we've been telling, to actually allow the truth to set us free. Because in my experience, the times in my life where I've felt the least free is when I've been subject to some sort of a lie, some sort of a lie that I have to maintain, some sort of a lie that I am living out, some sort of situation I'm being in that I really don't want to be in, some sort of thing I'm doing that I really don't want to do Some sort of behavior that isn't at all me, and I'm continuing to do it for some sort of reasons, some sort of reasons that are grounded in personal gain, some sort of reasons that I've justified and rationalized to myself, that are really for the greater good. But I know they're not, because I know what this feels like. I know what it feels like to live a lie. I know what it feels like to do something that isn't actually me, to say things that aren't actually true, to do things that aren't actually authentic, to go into life Constantly trying to get something, constantly trying to just do whatever I need to do, to get whatever I need to get. But ultimately, this can set up a never ending pattern. This can set up patterns that are almost impossible to escape. They're almost impossible to escape until we realize that we can never actually get what we really want through our own trickery, through our own manipulation, through our own dishonesty, that the only way to what we actually want is actually through right behavior.
It's through actually doing the right thing, these ideas that many of us have been indoctrinated with, that we came to a point where we kind of rolled our eyes and said that all sounds kind of simplistic and silly and stupid. They actually have a point that there actually is an inherent good to being a good person, that it actually is right to do the right thing and that life isn't quite as complicated as we make it out to be, that through all our schemes and tricks and plans and games that we play, when it comes down to it, life is actually pretty simple. A good life is lived through being a good person. The right life is lived through us doing the right thing and that when we maintain and nurture and grow our own integrity, then our life grows and maintains and nurtures a similar level of integrity right along with us. It feels much more solid, it feels much more durable, it feels much more reliable, it feels much more comfortable, because we can drop the maintenance, drop the upkeep on keeping these stories, these falsehoods, these illusions that we create alive.
And we all get to choose. That's the beauty of it. We all get to choose how important things like integrity, things like honesty, things like generosity, things like kindness, things like compassion are to us. We can value these things or not, because, even though the traditions that we participate in and grew up with may say otherwise, there's nothing in life that's actually going to twist our arm to make us be a good person, to make us do the right thing. Ultimately, we're the ones that have to choose. Ultimately, we're the ones who have the authority, have the autonomy, have the agency to choose, to be the kind of person that we want to be.
One of the really nice things about life, one of the really nice things about the way life works, is that when we start doing the right thing, when we start being honest, when we start acting with integrity, we know it. We know it because it feels completely different. It creates a completely different life experience. It creates something that actually feels solid. It actually feels solid because it's actually real. That's the best thing about the truth. It hits different. We know it. When we experience it. We naturally gravitate towards it. We're naturally attracted to it. We're naturally attracted to the things in our life that are actually true. We're naturally repelled by the things in our life that are actually false.
This attraction, repulsion, relationship exists for a reason. It isn't there just to torture us. It isn't there to just wag its finger at us, tell us how much of a bad boy or a bad girl we are, or to pat us on the head, tell us how virtuous and amazing we are. It's because there's actually value in living a good life. There's actually value in being a good person. It's actually better, not because anyone says it is, not because anyone's notices, not because we get recognition or a claim or anything from the outside. It's better because it feels better and it's undeniable. We all know it. We've all experienced it. We've all been in situations where we've been living in a way that is less than honorable, less than truthful, less than forthright, with less integrity than we would like to. We all know how that feels. We all know that existing in that kind of situation just feels like it's draining something out of us. It feels like it's sucking our life force out in some way. We know on some level it's at least mildly toxic. Because it feels that way. It feels like we're slowly being poisoned. It feels like we're on this slow drip of some sort of corrosion, some sort of decay that flows through us. That's the beauty of truth. We know it when we encounter it. It's self-evident, it's undeniable. And the opposite is also true, and we always know.
Sure, we can deceive ourselves for as long as we want, we can pretend as long as we want, we can trick everyone around us, at least for a short amount of time. But the question we have to ask ourselves is why Is this what we actually want? Can any amount of personal material gain, can any amount of material gain, can any amount of gratification and stimulation actually ever pay off? Actually feel the way we want to actually feel? This is a decision that we all have to make for ourselves. We all get to choose, and that's the beauty of it, that's the beauty of this life Is that free will runs underneath and undergirds everything. We always have a choice. We can always change if we choose to, and we can always not change if we choose to. No one can really make us do anything. We're always the ones choosing to be the way that we are, and we can always choose be however we want to be. We can always choose to change. We can always choose to grow. We can always choose to be better, to try harder, to be more, to be closer to whatever that ideal version of ourselves actually is to us. We can choose to mold and shape our life into a far more ideal shape by choosing to be more ideal versions of who we actually know ourselves to be.
And we do this not to be judged good or bad. We do this because it is actually better. Living a good life is better than living a bad life. This isn't news. They all know this. But sometimes it does take a little bit of discipline. It takes a little bit of effort to actually choose the good life, to actually choose to be good. It's not something anyone else can do for us. Ultimately, we have to decide. We have to decide the kind of person we are. We have to decide the kind of life that we want to live. We have to decide the kind of person that we want to be Because we're already making that choice. We're already doing that now and for a lot of us we do it unconsciously, but the fact of the matter is.
I am, that I am. The person I am, is the person I'm being. The person I am is what I'm doing, and we always get to choose. We always get to choose the person that we are. Because we always get to choose what we do. We get to choose how we do what we do. We get to choose why we do what we do.
And if we come to the point where we've been confronted with a fact or we've just decided to believe that integrity is precious, that integrity matters, then we can choose to live a high integrity life. We can choose to take high integrity action. We can choose to be whatever we wish. Because we can choose to do whatever we wish, because, even though we may have all sorts of grandiose beliefs about ourselves, the proof is in the pudding we are what we do. And even though we can rationalize and deceive ourselves, even though we can craft all sorts of illusions on who we think we are, what we actually are is whatever we're doing. However, we're behaving, the decisions that we make, how we treat people, how we affect those around us, how we allow those around us to affect us.
It is always true I am that I am and, if we're honest, if we're aware of how we actually are, then we know exactly who we've been being. And if we find that that doesn't actually fit, that isn't actually us, then we can make different choices. We can bring in that awareness of what we're doing in every given moment and we can be that ideal version of ourselves. We can at least endeavor after it, we can at least try, we can at least strive after it to move towards that idea of better, that idea of more, that idea of more ideal, and we can start to ride that spiral up, instead of letting our self-gratifying, self-enriching behavior lead us into and keep us locked into a downward spiral.
We can instead live the upward spiral of endeavoring after the ideal, endeavoring after our ideal, doing the right thing, living a good life, living a life full of integrity, because we understand that integrity is precious. We understand that the path to the good runs through the good. We understand that the outcomes that we experience in our life are imbued with the energy and the approach that we used in order to get there. We understand that our life is what we do, that our life is far greater than our accomplishments. Our life is far more profound than whatever we can list on a piece of paper. Our life is being, our life is our being and we are who we're being, and we can choose to be that more ideal version of ourselves. We can choose to be that more real, that more authentic, that greater version of ourselves, whenever we wish. We can choose to believe and to know that integrity is precious and we can choose to live a high integrity life now.