“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” ―Spencer Johnson
I think that’s a good statement. Integrity is living out our true beliefs and values consistently, both internally and externally. It is the whole picture. Two mistakes are often made when it comes to integrity. It is either considered (in ourselves or in others) as “right behavior and actions” displayed for others. This places the focus on what is seen and ignores the root system that produces above-ground growth. Or, it views integrity as the inner work of reflection. This places the focus of integrity on the internal process and ignores what is seen above ground. We can sense when people are living with integrity when we know what makes them tick, we know their hearts (their hopes, desires, successes, and failures), and (most importantly) we see them learning and growing over time. The essence of integrity is wholeness and having an undivided heart/mind. Here are some thoughts on bridging the gap between head and heart:
1. We’ve got to clue in to the gap. I can see the gap when my actions tell me a different story than what I say I believe. For example, my actions can reveal my heart’s belief that I don’t need help from others and can do life on my own. While, at the same time, my head holds the contradictory belief that I am not an island and that I need help from others. It is this gap that gets me in trouble. Recognizing that there is a gap is a good place to start.
2. We need encouragement to face the gap. Once I’ve clued in to the fact that there’s a gap, I need help to face what I find. If I listen, my heart will tell me all kinds of things, but they may not be very peaceful. Hearts can hold overwhelming things. We shouldn’t face them alone. Sure, be reflective. It can be very beneficial to spend time alone, but be in relationship with someone you trust who allows you to be real and who can help you think about practical ways for you to bridge that gap.
3. We need fuel for the journey. We derive fuel and energy from many sources in our lives. This is how we are designed to function – there is a basic economy of living that involves expending and renewing energy. Any effort to bridge the gap between head and heart will take a lot of energy. And it is wise to consider ways to maximize the range of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical avenues of renewal (I recommend The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz). Walk, sleep, meditate, pray, eat right, and hydrate – all these things will help.
Bridging the gap involves learning to listen to our hearts and paying attention to our actions to see where they don’t line up with our values and beliefs. As I seek this in my life, I find God’s presence makes a huge difference. The bible describes two kinds of hearts: a heart that goes it alone and a heart that goes with divine presence. Jesus told his followers “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you….Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). The journey of integrity is not for the faint, the overworked and depleted. It takes time to listen, energy to develop relationship, and discipline to manage the range of fuel sources. But, I believe that the world is longing for people with integrity (with healthy above-ground growth and the underground root system) and that those who find it will find refreshment and life for their souls.