Integrity

Posted on February 7, 2011

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My father kneeled beside my bed like he did every night as he tucked me in.

“What’s wrong, Honey?” he asked when he saw me crying. “

I lit a fire in the closet.”

I can only imagine what he must’ve been thinking before he responded. But before he could I begged him to forgive me. He said nothing but, “It’s okay, Honey. I’ll tell your mom. She won’t be upset.” She never said a word. And I didn’t get any lectures on how dangerous it was to light wadded-up papers in a coffee can on fire in the walk-in closet of our hundred-yr. old Victorian house. I don’t think I was ever reprimanded about anything.

The potential danger hadn’t frightened me. It was knowing I was keeping a secret from my parents. Two people whom I adored and who made me feel like I was the most intelligent, responsible and beautiful person alive. They didn’t know what I had done. But it was eating me up inside. I wanted to know that I was the same to them on the inside as I was on the outside. But the lie, or the withholding of my secret fire-lighting sat between us. And I couldn’t live with that feeling.

The feeling of not being trusted.

It’s like knowing there’s a structural flaw in a building, one that could cause harm, but is hidden. Once you know it’s there you hesitate every time you walk past or risk going inside.

I know a lot of people who have that kind of flaw. That’s called being human. My problem is not with the imperfection. It’s with the honesty about it. I’d rather be friends with someone who bares their imperfections than stay in a relationship with someone who assumes I can’t sense the duplicity.

In other words, if you aren’t allowed to see the inside you’ll have to trust the engineer. And if the engineer is caught in a lie, no one’s going to hire him. And everyone will look at everything he has built suspiciously.

I appreciate how my parents raised me. They taught me to pay attention to feelings. They never got in the way of that process. As a child I knew very well when I’d done something wrong. I never feared a punishment for anything I did. I was horrified that I’d lose my parents’ trust and respect. I treasured their eyes. I wanted them to look at me and show love and forgiveness. That’s what I always found there.

Living that way made entering the “real” world a bit hard to handle. I had to come to terms with a lot of people who don’t trust themselves, their children or me to be up to the task of honestly working things out, out in the open. There are the lectures which come from fear, and the endless stories that prove that people can’t be trusted.

I think it boils down to looking at everyone as an individual, a separate and unique building. The Master Architect creates and brings into reality perfect creations. But who we become depends upon the building materials we use. The integrity, or strength of character that we have needs to be assessed periodically to see if we can be relied upon by those who share our life with us, whether that be at home, at school, or at play.

My “building” isn’t quite done, yet. But I’ll be sure to tell you if I’ve made a mistake if it’s any of your business. And we’ll work towards trusting again. But even if I never said a word, I’m sure you could tell if I had integrity if you practiced really seeing me. That’s something you can just feel. Again, it’s okay when we find each other lacking.

Let’s just not pretend.

To enjoy life is to understand how to build and rebuild ourselves when we see our flaws. Anything less leaves people with the illusion that the outside reflects the inside and the standard is too high to match.

If you make a mistake be honest about it and move on. You’ll be stronger for it!

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