Integrity: A lost word

MasksThe word competency comes from the root word competent which means having the capacity to function or develop in a particular way.[i] Competent is “derived from the Latin word competentia, meaning ‘meeting together, agreement, symmetry.’”[ii] Being competent declares that we are capable. At first, we may only be able to do something moderately, slightly, or not at all. Over time, with repetition, we are able to master a task.

Learning about competency is one thing. Learning to embody competency is quite another. Learning about something means we can repeat it on cue. We have memorized it. Embodying means that we function naturally at a subconscious level. It is who we have become. We have not only learned what it takes to become this person, we have also displayed this behavior in our actions for an extended period of time. Our words match our actions, and we can now say we possess the quality of integrity. Integrity means:

  • we have decided who we want to be;
  • we have worked hard at becoming that person;
  • we can now say that this is who we are, and it is true;
  • others now know that this is true; and
  • our word is good to others and to ourself.

When our word is accurate to ourself, then our word is accurate to others. Trust for self eventually brings trust for others. We either want to be a certain thing—or not. We have either worked hard to achieve something—or not. We can say with certainty that this is who we are—or not. Our word is either good—or not. When we choose to live with integrity, it means that our word matters, even when no one is looking, even when there is something at risk, and even if we made a mistake. Integrity is not the by-product of thinking we are something, but the result of actually being something worth being. We cannot solely think our way into being a person others trust. We must act our way into being someone that others trust. We must first start with acting like someone we trust.

Somehow along the way, it became okay to be dishonest with ourselves. No one else was going to find out, so it seemed all right to cheat a little. We rationalized our behavior. After a time, we got comfortable not keeping our promises to ourselves. It felt normal. Soon it became easier to not keep promises to others. They got a little upset, but not that mad. It was certainly bearable. Yes, it was all bearable. This became the new routine, and it was okay that we didn’t trust ourselves and that others didn’t really trust us either. After all, life was just plain hard.

We believed that if other people’s lives were as hard as ours, they’d have behaved the way we did. So we moved through life with this idea that we had it bad, and others could not possibly understand. We thought it was normal, and we came to accept it as who we were. We embodied this false philosophy. We adapted to the idea that life was just hard. Life wasn’t fair. Our parents screwed us up. What was the point in trying when it was futile? We moved forward in life with these beliefs and never bothered to investigate if they were true. We didn’t even know how to investigate our own thinking. We had deceived ourselves for so long, it appeared to be the only way. It never occurred to us that it could be any different. As a matter of fact, when someone told us it could be different, their words fell on deaf ears.

Locked into this frame of thinking only produces more of the same. After all, the subconscious seeks to reinforce its programming. We will need to shatter our old identity if this is to change. We demolish the old identity by acting our way into a new identity. It is painful, horribly painful. It is the hardest thing we will ever do, and worse yet, we have no reference point for how we are going to do it. Nor do we know others who have done it. We have not walked through anything like this before. As hard as it may seem, it is still easier than staying where we are.

We must not fear making the change; we must fear staying the same. When faced with the option, the horror of staying the same is too much to bear. It is then that we are ready to change.

This excerpt is derived from Sober Identity, 73-75
Part IV: The Competencies

[i] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 11th Edition, 46.

[ii], 2010, accessed September 30, 2010.

No Responses to “Integrity: A lost word

  • Yes!

    Lisa, this is exactly what I had to learn when I finally stopped drinking. I had to learn to have integrity. It was a struggle, to be sure, but since it was hard-won, an inch at a time, it’s really and truly MINE now.

    Great post…. thank you.

  • This core philosophy bridges many platforms. Excellent assessment and treatment. Actions speak louder than words, and thoughts are silent until action becomes their speaker.

    • Red, I love that thought, “thoughts are silent until action becomes their speaker.” Why is everything you say so darn brilliant. xox

  • I remember a time, about 90 days sober, where I seriously felt the urge to give up, to give in, to… revert. The setting was perfect… I had means, I had opportunity, and I had a “rationale” for doing so. And once I deduced these facts, the very next thought was, “but I’ll be giving up my sober time.” Next thought: “but no one will ever know.” Next thought: “but I’ll know.” And with that I decided to continue in my recovery. As I look back, it was a critical juncture, because it was where I began to develop my integrity. Thanks for this post, and this reminder!

    • I love how you got down to the exact moment. This has been my experience as well. Looking back I can remember a dozen or so of those moments where the love I had for me, the integrity I so hungered for, was alive and real. It was mine and no one could (can) ever take it away. My job: Stay close to God and understand the Law of Cause and Effect. I was given the gift of free-will. As always, thanks for the kind words. I love your blog and sharing in your recovery. xox

  • I have to admit that when I read this, I had no comment because there was nothing to comment on, because it was so damn perfect. You have an absolute knack and gift in reducing things to the paradoxically simplest and yet deepest level. You hit every mark and there is much to learn…wow.

    I shattered what dignity and integrity I had in my life through a slow and subtle shift in my perception towards others, and more importantly, myself. Through deception, “justified” resentments, irrational mental discourse and pure selfishness and self-seeking, I was able to undermine anything that the Creator had intended for me. Alcoholism was the plow and my own mind was the driving force. What you say about the death of Self is very poignant and bang-on. Everything I have learned, and continue to learn is to destroy self. Ego. Every time I go to a meeting, or work with someone, or help out or do something that gets me out of me, I die a little. And it’s a good death…because out of that comes a new way of thinking, acting and perceiving. And as you say, it’s horribly painful. But without walking over those coals, I don’t know what true relief and freedom feels like when I put my feet in the water. I can’t get there from here without that pain.

    I love the last three lines…the fear of remaining the same as being more painful than the fear of change. So very true for this alcoholic. I knew that if I stayed on the course I was on, death was on the horizon. The fear of change was dastardly, but the fear of being in the same place I was…grave.

    Thank you once again for such an insightful and deep post.


    • I must admit, I am thrilled to see your reply and a little surprised in the same breath. People in my inner circle have said to me, “It’s like you live on a different planet, how you see all this.” I guess I feel like whatever “planet” I am on, I like it and I don’t understand why a person wouldn’t want to be there. It is simple. Disturbingly simple from my ego’s perspective. So much so, that I “have a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition.” (BB quote) I love how you say (paraphrasing) that with every meeting, giving, sharing, helping, etc. a little of me dies. This must be what the bible refers to when it speaks of “in dying we are reborn.” (again, sketchy quoting … where are my good christian friends who know chapter and verse? Josie? or Heather? Lynn? you reading here?)

      I find the depth of your thinking rather pleasurable on many levels and have enjoyed our convergence on other’s blogs as well. Thank you for coming back and commenting. I started this blog to share about my book, but have found something completely unexpected—a beautiful community filled with loving and supportive souls and we all love to write. I am grateful for your friendship. Even at the writing of this a small part of me is dying. That part of me that says “write this or that, or don’t write that” … Today I will not be afraid to write the words I feel in my heart.

      And to quote you, “Blessings” and love, Lisa

      • It’s been a pleasure and honour to have crossed your path, Lisa. What you have created here is certainly a wonderful community where like minds and hearts can share and help and support in a safe place. I am so glad that you write fearlessly, even in your comments here and in other people’s sacred grounds. The more we lift away from ourselves, the more we glow. And you glow!


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