Integrity: the art of doing what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it. If you cannot, you communicate as soon as you become aware that you may not be able to follow through with your promise either at all or in the original timeframe.
I recently had my integrity questioned, or so I interpreted something to mean.
I know I act with integrity even when no one is watching, so everyone else must know that right? Wrong. And oh boy was I caught off guard when I realised this was not the case.
Of course my unconscious reactions and emotions kicked in which were to feel shock and anger, along with my fight or flight reaction telling me to remove myself and run far from the situation. ‘They didn’t deserve me anyway,’ said my emotions.
I’ll take a second to say that yes I do have automatic, negative responses sometimes. Mindfulness is not about never having negative reactions, or suppressing these emotions if they come up, but it is about acknowledging that they are present and choosing to act in spite of them steering you in a certain direction.
As I began to type an angry email reply, I looked down at my shaking hands and realised at that moment I was not in control of my emotions, nor was I being who I choose to be.
So I left the keyboard and did a few rounds of intense exercise to burn off the adrenalin that was pumping through my system. I’d been unwell so it wasn’t much, but it did the trick.
As my heart rate returned to normal after my workout so did my ability to choose conscious thinking and I could finally step back and assess the situation without any attachment.
The situation was a tricky one, and the first thing I realised was that I wasn’t actually feeling any of those original emotions. I was actually disappointed that my integrity had not been registered by someone who spends a great deal of time with me.
This was a helpful thing to realise, and I could have easily fallen into a trap here and left it at that, but I was still not being accountable. I was only looking at what others had added to the issue, and not how my actions had contributed to the outcome.
You see the main thing I’ve learned about integrity is that there is always something we can be accountable for in any situation. Even if it is small, we are rarely blameless. Please note that this obviously excludes certain situations like rape and similar horrific violations, and is also not about punishing yourself mercilessly or being a scapegoat.
So I dug deeper.
I finally realised that what I could be accountable for was not communicating more clearly what my actions had been, which would have left no room for anyone to question them. So this situation was partly caused by me and I wasn’t blameless – ouch went my ego.
In that moment my righteousness, anger and disappointment all melted away and were replaced by understanding from the other person’s point of view.
The situation we had all been involved in was a highly stressful one which meant that emotions for everyone were being stretched to their limits, and many extenuating circumstances had built tempers to almost breaking point.
I had been a bit righteous and naïve to not assess the situation better and ensure there was not an issue, understanding that stress leads to snap judgements and irrational thoughts.
With this in mind I then did what would have been unimaginable half an hour earlier – I made a plan to be accountable, apologise for my part in the situation, and take action to ensure this did not happen again.
This situation was in no way caused solely by me, but we can’t force others to be accountable if they aren’t there yet. By choosing to take the high road in a highly stressful and emotion fuelled situation I was able to bring peace to myself, as well as the main people involved, and that was a great win.
Now instead of a tidal wave, this has been a learning curve for all of us. I can sleep well knowing that I was the master of my emotions and my life recently.
Will you choose integrity?