• Many people misunderstand the word integrity. They believe that being a person of integrity means that you always keep the rules of your religion, that you never transgress the employee handbook at your workplace, that you abide by every one of your nation’s laws.  Didn’t break this rule. Check. Didn’t cross that boundary. Check. Check. Check . . . . This is not integrity.  It’s simply obedience to an outside authority.

    Instead, integrity means wholeness. Think about the mathematical term integer—a whole number, a number that is not a fraction. When we long to be a person of integrity, we are not yearning for a life of rule keeping. We are yearning to express the deepest, most constant truth of ourselves, in every situation, in every encounter, in every relationship.

    Most of us live our entire lives wearing a mask. We feel as if we can’t reveal who we truly are or we will not be loved and accepted. We will not be safe.  We may wear many masks—one in front of our parents, one at work, one with friends, another at church, and on and on. We display a fraction of ourselves here, a sliver over there, but never our whole, integrated self. We wear a mask when we obey the law all the while internally seething with rage against the government, when we conform to the teachings of a religion we don’t believe in because we are afraid of what others will say about us if we don’t, when we follow the rules at work all the while feeling sick to our stomach because we are not in alignment with that institution’s practices but fear what will happen to us if we leave. We wear a mask when we try to be all things to all people but never true to our own selves.

    Being a person of integrity doesn’t mean we don’t have a moral code. It means we live out of the riches of who we really are rather than the scraps of who someone or something else says we should be. Is it any wonder that there is so much stress, so much depression, so much angst? The pressure of juggling masks, the constriction of wearing one so tight that it’s hard to breathe, keeps us constantly on edge, living the proverbial life of quiet desperation.

    Deciding to take off our mask can be scary. We may feel as if we are taking a huge risk. But stop a moment and count the costs. If we never remove the mask, we may wake up one day at the end of this life realizing that we never really lived.  We must be courageous. We must take the time to get to know our true selves, to understand who we really are and what we value, and to live out of that knowing all the time, in every circumstance. Only then can we truly claim to be living a life of integrity.