How to Ensure You Never Compromise Your Integrity
Explore the powerful place integrity has in our lives. Let’s dive into the perils of compromising our moral compass, the subtle yet potent consequences, and the strength that comes from steadfast ethical alignment.
The Value and Pitfalls of Compromise
In life, the ability to compromise generally is regarded as a positive thing; indeed it’s vital to getting things done and getting along well with others. I’ve experienced great outcomes born out of compromise, and no doubt there are countless examples we all could share that illustrate its importance and value.
What’s far more interesting and fundamental for us as evolve beings, is to be aware of instances where compromise — tempting though it may be — is counterproductive or damaging to us, our relationships, and our lives. I’m talking specifically about situations where we compromise our integrity.
Raising Awareness Around Integrity: A Dual Definition
For all of us, rock-solid integrity is an imperative. And “integrity” is a powerful word with (at least) two definitions that most people view as distinct, but which I see as closely correlated.
The first one is most frequently associated with human behavior: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.”
The second is “the state of being whole and undivided,” which typically is applied to objects or territory, but for me, is central to excellence in living consciously.
Linking Morality and Wholeness in Leadership
The connection between these two definitions is illuminating. If we possess and live out strong moral principles, we won’t compartmentalize how we act in just one area of our life. For instance, we wouldn’t live out our strong moral principles at home, but ignore them at work as we stab a co-worker in the back to get ahead.
Nor would we rationalize deviations from “true north” on our moral compass; in this aspect of our lives, we would be whole and undivided.
Facing the Temptation to Compromise Integrity
If we’re paying attention, we’ll see that we face temptations to compromise our integrity every day. This can take so many forms, like not telling our partner the truth because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable, to not telling the checkout clerk that they forgot to ring up an item.
Say we spot a seemingly great opportunity that will bring us substantial personal gain but wouldn’t be good for a friend; all it would require is a slight pivot to the left of “true north” to generate what we, in that moment, “think” is good for us personally.
But at what cost?
A common theme that can drive us to compromise our integrity is a need for “more”. This could show up in so many ways, like a need for more recognition or status, more autonomy, more attention, more money and shiny objects.
A slightly different angle on a need for more shows up as an underlying feeling of scarcity, like there’s not enough. Need, greed, scarcity are all in play as temptations.
The Price of Compromise: Ignoring our Conscience
When we compromise our integrity and get what we want without consequence, we risk planting the seed for further compromising our integrity. We have a conscience to help us not do things like that.
We need to listen to our conscience because that inner voice is what guides us to act virtuously in a given situation.
When we don’t listen to our conscience, breaches of integrity can occur which can come back to haunt us.
The Consequences of Breaching Integrity
For example, what happens when somebody notices: “Wait, shouldn’t we have been in this true north direction?”
If we feel threatened when confronted this way, we can move into a self-protective mode that can lead us to further compound the misdeed by creating justifications or by diminishing that person, or getting rid of that person from our lives so that they are not in the way of us getting our needs met.
We may not be aware of it, but we’ve all done this in some way. For most of us, we can remember what we felt and said the first time we got caught with our hand in the cookie jar as a child.
It doesn’t mean we’re terrible people, but it does mean that there’s something to clean up.
Falling into a pattern of integrity breaching behavior is a risky path to walk down. Even veering slightly out of integrity can result in a major energy drain, impaired relationships, a damaged reputation.
We’re Always Watering Something… The Choice is Ours
There are many dominoes that begin to fall when we don’t act in alignment with our conscience and integrity.
When we compromise our integrity, we’re implanting a seed of disharmony that will take root inside of us. The longer we breech integrity, the more the seed will grow and haunt us, and the more we will ultimately suffer.
Experiences like this affect our physical health. Our bodies feel tense and tight, and don’t function optimally when we are fighting our conscience. When we are contracted at the physical level, it’s stressful, and this type of sustained stress is not good for our well-being.
One could say that is by design — a wakeup call to get our choices and actions back into alignment with our values.
In fact, harnessing our awareness around all of this is essential and the key to living consciously.
Restoring Integrity: The Power of Accountability and Alignment
When we have acted without integrity, it’s important to clean up the mess we’ve made and to be fully accountable for it.
As we step up and take total responsibility for our choices and actions, it becomes easier to navigate to our “true north”. And with that, our bodies and minds relax, and we find that the freedom to act and to be in alignment with what we know is virtuous to be profoundly empowering.
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