It occurred to me that integrity is the key to all freedom, and I’d like to share my thoughts. (So don’t read this if you don’t like freedom :P) The topic of integrity is huge; I tried to make this as brief as possible.
Two things we need to define: integrity and freedom. Let’s start with freedom – to me, it’s the feeling of being unchained and unrestricted by both physical and, most importantly, ideological barriers. When you’re truly free, you dance at a concert when no one else does. You boldly ask a girl/guy out. You live life in a way that’s most fulfilling to you, regardless of what others think. More on freedom in a bit.
Integrity has many definitions. Sometimes it’s defined in terms of having strong moral principles, but I will argue that morality comes from integrity and hence integrity has to exist first (more on this later). The definition I’d like to use is that of “being whole and undivided,” like a table that has all 4 legs, but applied to your consciousness, character, and soul, or whatever you call that which defines “you.” And in order to be whole and undivided, we need to keep our promises (do what you say) to both others and ourselves – that’s the most basic level of integrity.
I’m not sure how to best translate my thoughts on integrity as related to freedom, so I’ll shower you with examples first, hoping that you’ll see the pattern. I’ll start with the most obvious and follow with ones you may not have considered yet. When you have integrity:
- You have the freedom to give promises that you know will be trusted because you’ve kept your previous promises (or others have vouched for you with a new person);
- You have the freedom to borrow money due to a high credit score because you’ve had the integrity to always pay back on time (again, keeping the promise you gave when you signed that contract);
- You have the freedom to retain any friends you like despite conflicting beliefs because you know that forcing your beliefs on them lacks integrity (chew on this one if you disagree);
- You have the freedom to remain friends with your ex because they know you as your word, and they don’t doubt you’ll treat them with respect when you say you will (this one is so hard for so many people, but it’s simple: if you say a relationship is done, never mention the past again, never blame again, etc. Saying “we’re no longer in a romantic relationship” and then bringing up stuff from the past related to the romantic relationship lacks integrity, and it is the single biggest reason why two people who were in love/relationship can’t stay friends after the fact). I went through this – the love of my life is now one of my best friends. I also witnessed a couple get divorced, and the ex-wife become best friends with the new wife, all due to integrity – it’s truly amazing;
- Unless you picked certain religious beliefs, you have the freedom to have sex before marriage with clean consciousness, because you have explained to your partner your views on parenting (or abortion) beforehand and they either agreed (yay, sex) or didn’t (and you went your separate ways).
Why talk about sex? Because this is where rubber hits the road and so many of us can relate to it – we will often be honest with smaller things, but will choose hormones over integrity when it comes to sex (or anger). But here’s the deal – if you don’t know your partner agrees on your views on parenting/abortion, proceeding with sex lacks integrity. Condoms break – what then? Trust me from experience – there’s absolutely no better sex than sex with someone who is on the same page as you. You truly feel free then. If you both want to raise the kid in case of pregnancy – sex is fantastic. If you’d rather use plan B and both agree – sex is fantastic, as there’s never any fear or doubt during it. And in both cases there’s the freedom to go unprotected since you know how things will be handled afterwards (unprotected sex without knowledge lacks integrity – chew on that!).
Integrity is everywhere. Don’t like something another person is doing? It’s out of integrity to not communicate it. Why? Because they don’t know you don’t like it, and hence there’s an implicit agreement between all human beings to communicate when one does something the other doesn’t like. There’s no other way of knowing. If you don’t communicate, you’ll start resenting them. Eventually it will implode and relationship may suffer. So communicating others’ effect on you has integrity. It gives others the freedom to be honest with you, and to make a choice about their behavior. And that gives you the freedom to have amazing relationships, to not have to hide, and to have the friends that add to your life and not subtract from it.
Integrity can essentially be distilled to being honest – with others and with yourself – about everything. It can he hard, but life is amazing when you’re honest. If someone says they are in love with you, and you are not in love with them, as hard as it is to admit that, it’s telling them (nicely) that you don’t feel the same way that gives you both freedom. If you lie, you now have to live a life of pretense and the relationship will feel like a burden, eventually collapsing and hurting both parties. But if you’re honest, you will either have the freedom to continue being yourself (if the partner is ok with you not being in love yet), or the freedom to find another partner. You may even be able to keep the current partner as a friend.
When you’re honest and keep your word, people want to help you. They want to be open with you. They’ll give you more gifts, invite you to more parties, and be more free around you. All of this gives you a lot of freedom in both material and spiritual sense, such as the freedom to start a business with people, to borrow capital, and to organized great events that fulfill you.
Ignorance is bliss, but some of us would rather die than be ignorant (me, for example). So far, after years of searching, the only other way I found to have bliss is through integrity. Don’t like how many poor people there are around the world? Donate to a cause that works on a solution – it will give you bliss. Don’t like a government policy? Call your representative, write e-mails, go protest, etc. – taking action will give you bliss. Don’t want to get married or want to get married a certain way or at a certain point/age? Communicate this right away to the girl/boy you like and once you find someone who is on the same page, you’ll have bliss. Be honest and keep your word and you’ll never have problems with your consciousness – this will definitely help your bliss.
When you’re ignorant (as we all are in the beginning), you follow whatever you’ve been told is good without questioning why it’s “good.” The key to continued bliss after your start questioning things is doing unto others exactly as you’d like them to do unto you if you switched bodies. This is the highest level of integrity; also, the opposite of hypocrisy (hence, hypocrisy is a barrier to experiencing bliss).
All good can be derived from this level of integrity. Do you want everyone to be honest with you? Be honest with everyone. If you were a female dating men, would you want them to tell you when they don’t intend to raise the child in case of a pregnancy? Well if you’re a man, tell the women you’re about to have sex with that you aren’t ready to be a father so they know to use plan B/abortion or to move on to another man. Do you want to define your own faith? Then let others define their faith. Do you want others to love you? Then love others. Do you want to be respected or heard? Respect and hear others. It is beyond amazing what integrity can do for a common definition of “good” – all without having to invent a religion and convert people to it.
Integrity makes life simple. There’s no need to remember lies, to play different roles with different people, or to force values onto people so you can be friends. Integrity is an end in and of itself. Integrity is like being a rock – it’s whole and undivided. It doesn’t have the goal of finding people who like it; people who like it come and gather around the rock. Weather – like fashion, religions, cultures, and morals – come and go, but the rock withstands them all.
Speaking of morals, religions, and cultures – is there integrity in following them blindly, due to a mere fact that they exist? I think not. It lacks integrity to accept something you didn’t research, for it could be false; or to accept something on faith without admitting that you chose that faith, for many other faiths can be chosen. It lacks integrity to think that a culture is the culture, for cultures are many, and one is not above another. When you have integrity, you’re free from all notions of culture, religion, or morality. Instead, you pick them based on integrity, as I described above. And when you do that, you feel free – there are no ideological restrictions from others; all you believe comes from your own integrity. I can’t tell you how free this makes me feel in regards to morals. I have no doubts or guilt – I know that there’s no higher morality than treating others like I want to be treated.
I’ll give one example that nearly everyone can relate to – sex. I thought long and hard about sex. My inherited belief was that sex is something very special (and dangerous) and that “virginity” is a thing. So I stayed a virgin until 24, and I “lost” it to a very special girl. Yet as I started questioning things, I came to realize that the only things that make sex “bad” are the very ideologies that say sex is bad. As in, most religions restrict sex, but the only proof of such restrictions being any valid are the religions themselves. And that’s crazy – it’s the equivalent of believing in something and, when questioned, saying “Because I said so.” So I looked for other, more objective views on sex. This helped me boil down the negatives of sex to just two very down-to-earth and real problems: disease and unwanted/unexpected pregnancy. These problems are real and objective because they exist outside of my belief in them. I could find absolutely nothing else objectively wrong with sex – it is, in essence, an expression of love and desire, just like kissing is, and you exchange bodily fluids during both. So in order to have integrity about sex, I do two things now – I use protection and I ask my partner if she has birth control or is willing to use plan B in case of a condom breaking. And if I have any doubts, I ask if she has been tested recently. I’ve been told many times, “Dude, you’ll never get laid asking these questions.” They were wrong. Asking the questions gives me a peace of mind while also showing my partner that I have integrity (which, for the type of partners I want to be with, is a turn-on).
It seems every day people tell me to do things out of integrity just to achieve some immediate goal. “Marry to get a green card.” “Get a job to stay in the country.” “Play cool so you get laid.” “Don’t use a condom to get more pleasure.” And so on. But at what price? Integrity is priceless. Integrity attracts freedom. There are a hundred ways to live, and a hundred ways to achieve your goals and dreams. You can focus on one way and sacrifice your integrity, but you’ll gain stress and doubt, and you’ll lose much of your freedom. Instead, I focus on integrity and new doors always open for me. Do this, and you will be as free as you can be. And, likely, as happy as you can be.
Integrity is bliss.