Integrity- The Path to Authenticity
We’ve all been in that ‘between a rock and a hard place’ situation a time or two. It’s not an easy out, no matter how you slice it. An unethical request makes your tummy do flips, yet it’s requested in such a way that you don’t feel like you have the latitude to refuse the request without:
- compromising your standing
- risking your employment
- slighting someone important’s values
- compromising your personal values,
- defeating a communicated organizational purpose
- putting someone in danger
- tarnishing the reputation of someone
- hurting the feelings of another
- getting someone fired or worse
- someone being brought up on criminal charges
Why do people even ask such favors in the first place? Power, Ego, Money, A Sure Bet, Poor Manners, Lack of Scruples, Fear. . .any number of answers might provide the impetus for someone to act out of the opportunity for personal gain, particularly at the expense of another.
When should you do as asked? (If your heart is racing, you get a headache/nausea just thinking about it, your good conscience is trying to manifest roadblocks of one sort or another.)
Deepak Chopra talks of listening to your body, when you’re consciously unsure of the direction you must take. He says to trust your gut, or listen to your body, because inherently, our bodies know what our minds talk us out of believing. It’s true.
He says, if you have a dilemma, or question and you don’t seem to know which way to go, pose the statement in the past tense, as if you’ve already made the decision and moved forward, then listen to your body- do you feel your chest tighten? If so, probably not the best choice. If you don’t notice any physical reaction to the statement as if you’ve already moved forward, then it’s probably not a bad decision. He also says, Smart Choices Smooth the Path.
Let’s say, for example, that you have been invited to a party where there will likely be an appearance by a guy you are attracted to. You’d hate to miss the opportunity to strike up a conversation, but you’ve already committed to volunteer at a mundane event you were ok with doing until this “better” opportunity came along. You might state to your self, aloud, “I skipped the volunteer gig to see Shawn* (insert any name here) at the party.” See if your chest tightens, or your stomach begins to feel achy. If you experience any negative physiological response, you may be better off skipping the party and going with your gut- to the opportunity to volunteer. It may well turn out that you were not the only one hoping to see Shawn*, who incidentally, didn’t have any of you on his radar, and showed up with a date, who happens to be his fiancée. Hence the lost opportunity turned out not to have been an opportunity at all, while the volunteer opportunity might propel your career forward, through a chance meeting of someone who actually provides opportunity for personal growth.
For me, it happened when a former boss asked me to pretend not to notice that a local business in default on several loans, had built a wall to hide a very expensive piece of equipment which had been collateral for a loan and was about to be repossessed. There were a few other occasions where I was asked to pretend not to know anything about other municipal fouls he was aware of, and after refusing to incriminate myself, my position was eliminated- written out of the budget- he said they couldn’t afford someone who was not a “team player.” I read about the demise of my position in the local newspaper before he donned a set and told me to my face. This is not a ‘poor me’ ploy for sympathy, just a real life situation that left me in dire financial straits. My reasoning for refusing those requests, even though it resulted in the loss of my job was a matter of my personal integrity and responsibility. I happened to have been the single mother of an 8 year old and a 14 yr old- both of whom needed me and whom I did not want to have the impression of his mom/her stepmom, as a political pawn/criminal. Better they should know me as unemployed than the potential alternative.
Integrity means we have to stand for what we believe in. We have to act in accordance with what we believe is right, with confidence, even in a situation that leaves us in a potential bind, if we ever want to know inner peace and a better opportunity. If that situation hadn’t occurred to me personally, my right vs. wrong realization would have presented itself in some other form or circumstance. The fact of the matter is- that guy did me a HUGE favour. The environment was so toxic and I was instantly freed of it- that alone made all the difference.
I had a year of self exploration, time with my son and daughter, to renovate our home, the opportunity to attend field trips, create a school garden with like-minded folks, which led to my next professional opportunity much more in tune with my soul’s journey (promoting wellness) and allowed me the time and opportunity to go to Italy- a lifelong dream finally realized at age 46.
Shit happens. It happens to everyone. It happens for important realizations and reasons, even when we can’t quite figure out what those reasons are, at the time they’re occurring. The good news is, when it happens, if we live through it, we come out the other side wiser and stronger.
Integrity is not something that’s given to us, it’s the consistent weighing of situation after situation and making choices that rather than go against our personal grain, enhance and create opportunities for us to move forward personally, challenging us to grow, create, gain momentum, share our passion and be authentic.