The essence of integrity isn't just speaking of moral and ethical principles. It's putting those principles on the table for the entire world to see by virtue of your actions. A microcosm of yourself that others look at. Being brutally honest with yourself, God, and those you love and hold dearest to your heart is one thing. Doing the very same thing with everyone you know and come into contact with is entirely another matter. In the first instance, the truth you see in yourself, what you admit to God, and what you share with people you love the most, affords a level of comfort, safety, and security you simply don't have in the latter instance.
People want the truth. It's our nature as human beings. We want it from those we love. More importantly, we want it in our entire world. No one likes dishonest politicians, shady people, and people with hidden agendas. We see that every day. No one's perfect though, right?
That's why I've encountered many people in this life journey who choose to share their deepest and darkest secrets about themselves and their past only with the ones they love the most. The ones they trust. Why? Because it's safe, it's like being in a cocoon, because we screw up. And when we do, which we all do because we're human, we have the comfort of knowing we will always be forgiven. Put simply, it's called unconditional love. We are protected, we feel safe, and loved. On the other hand, what happens when we put ourselves "out there" for the whole world to see? And not just what makes us comfortable, picking and choosing, and putting ourselves in the best light possible. By putting ourselves out there, it makes us vulnerable to criticism, judgment, and ridicule. The thought occurs to me at this very moment as I wrote that last sentence. Isn't that what Jesus did?
By now, you may have surmised where I'm going with this latest chapter. Anyone who has read my blog knows I'm putting myself "out there." And not just to a select few. I made the conscious decision a long time ago to take such a risky step. I've laid it out for the whole WORLD to see. I've intentionally placed myself in a vulnerable position. Question is, why? Because by doing so, by letting everyone know all my successes, all my failures, and all of what I want for myself in this life, I've set a standard that if I don't meet, I have much more than myself to be accountable to. If I'm truly a person of integrity, following through with my intentions with actions therefore becomes much more important and puts a huge weight upon my shoulders. Because I did it. I come through, I win and win big. I don't, I lose a heck of a lot more than if I didn't. Think about that statement. If you tell someone privately that you're going to do something and you don't, what happens? You have only the person you told to answer to. Sure, you have yourself as well but where's the risk in that? For that matter, where's the reward? You mess up, only you and the person you told know. You mess up and the whole WORLD knows; wow, now there's a problem. Your safety net is gone.
The point of this is the level of your integrity shouldn't be measured by just the ones you love. A better measure is all of your fellow man. Life is all about taking chances and taking risks. Taking chances with only a select few is cheating yourself from the glory of what you can truly achieve as a human being. If your fellow man knows you are a person who not only puts everything on the table, but also follows through with your promises, your level of integrity goes through the roof. Because you've made yourself vulnerable.
Okay, enough preaching, it's time to put it to the test. Recently, I wrote a piece called "A Change Will Do You Good." For those of you who haven't read it, I stated my intention to quit smoking. I did so in a very public way. Now I ask you this question. If I don't follow through and prove myself with acting on that intent, how does my integrity measure up as opposed to if I had stated this intention only to myself or just a few people? In other words, my comfort zone and cocoon where I'm all safe and secure? Do you see the difference?
Now here's another question. Think of something in your past or something in your life at the moment, something you're not particularly proud of or perhaps embarrassed by. If you keep this to yourself, where is your integrity? The easy way out is to say, "Well, that's personal Gus. I don't think it's anybody else's business but my own and maybe some of those really close to me." Could be, but if you're striving for perfection in life and want others to be the same way, why shouldn't you put yourself "out there?"
I've discovered through very personal and sometimes tragic experience that the rewards of making my-self vulnerable far exceed the risks. Being a person of integrity isn't just about how those we hold closest to our hearts view us. It's everyone. It's like keeping the shades drawn or opening them so the light can shine in. Final question then: Are you going to play it safe? Or are you going to take chances? Something to think about as you go about your way in this world.