To Thine Own Act be True

“What is your highest value?” asked my grandson’s scholarship entry form. I perked up. What are the values of today’s young?

Integrity. My heart opened – it’s also mine. It isn’t a fun value or politically correct. I thought of Miss Universe contestants answers to similar questions: children and world peace. No, integrity is a lonely value; no warm fuzzies there.

My decision to live with integrity had none of the warmth of counting my blessings, keeping a gratitude diary or paying it forward. It didn’t lead to major reforms: I didn’t stop robbing banks or cheating on income tax. I simply started honouring the integrity of each act as I did it. A form of mindfulness, except I didn’t have to slow down and perform an act minutely. There was no interruption; integrity blended seamlessly into my everyday life.

What was surprising was that it turned out not to be about me, but about something much bigger: the whole, perhaps God’s eye view. It meant doing each act with integrity, giving it its due, not rushing or cutting corners. It meant seeing the invisible contract. If I am preparing supper, I wash my hands first, not because I “should” or because someone is watching, but because whoever eats my food is trusting me to be careful.

What was unexpected was that “I” vanished from the equation. The internal arguments, shaming and emotional blackmail were gone. No more “did I look OK?” or debates on whether I was right or wrong. No more imagined slights or having the last word. My loyalty is to the situation not to my ego.

Of course, it isn’t like that all the time, but I have gained a dispassionate viewing station. I can run things past my integrity check and often the hurt or impatience dies away. An unlooked for bonus: I am actually much less of a patsy. Integrity calls for fairness to everyone, including me. Looked at from outside, it becomes clear that giving in or giving away is often neither fair nor good for anyone.

The idea came because I find mindfulness difficult – easy to forget and, when done, a moment in isolation before stepping back on the hamster wheel. There has to be something that can be woven into life, become a habit. Something that gives purpose, continuity to the mundane. A compass for the journey.

Integrity is very grounding I am someone who gets drunk on joy; my boundaries wobble and thin. Warm fuzzies are like wine, so you can imagine how easily my emotions overflow, overwhelming me and probably everyone else. Integrity gives balance and calm, like living in a meditation.


“Integrity is congruence between what you know, what you profess and what you do.”

Nathaniel Brandon


“Integrity is congruence between what you know, what you profess, and what you do.”

― Nathaniel Branden




About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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