It’s an old word that goes back to Latin, integer or whole. To have integrity is to be whole, sound, solid…without impairment. In construction it’s used to describe structural strength or ability to carry a load. Less than whole is a fraction in math. In social terms we say others have integrity when they say and do what they mean. Conversely, in psychological or spiritual terms we are fractured when we go against ourselves or God. We fractionalize ourselves in compulsions or sin. In other words we dis-integrate.
Compulsions call one nature against another. Let’s take a pornography compulsion, for example. You have a look at some porn when maybe you are 8 or 12 or 16. Whenever you do, a wedge is driven into your integrated psyche, like those copper wedges the Egyptians used to cut huge stone blocks for their pyramids. It did not seem possible that copper could hew out solid stone, but that’s what happened. Naturally one blow on the wedge would not be enough to fracture stone or you. But repeated blows and many wedges will result in something critical being carved into or out of your soul. The wholeness resists the force of fracture for a while until the whole breaks. And there you have it: part of a mountainside goes into bondage to the Egyptians. The difference with addictions and compulsions is that you are simultaneously the slave and slave master, object and subject.
The double edge to these wedges is that they are pounded on in secrecy. A magazine or computer site is fixated upon and visited over and over. The new nude landscape becomes just as familiar as the jail cell is to its prisoner. Every inch is tattooed onto a lower part of your brain, down where survival impulses reside alongside trauma memories. It’s called the reptilian brain where our fight, freeze, or flight reactions arise. Addictions and compulsions operate like poison ivy or wisteria vines– they slither up and around legitimate survival instincts and squeeze. Over time the brain comes to believe that these add ons are just as important as the original equipment, maybe even more so. So, where food, water, air, and sex add up to survival, gambling, shopping, work, porn, heroin, alcohol, cocaine, etc. somehow hold even power in the lower brain like petty tyrants.
I don’t recall the name of the bird that doesn’t build its own nest but lays eggs in another specie’s already constructed nest. When the host bird raises its chicks, this impostor’s chicks overpower the legitimate babies and push them out of the nest. There is a lack of transparency in this deal. Two agendas struggle in one nest. This is one way to look at compulsions or addictions– they are foreign eggs laid in your nest. If you feed and strengthen them, they will weaken or kill your children. That’s the first job of a tyrant, to weaken or kill his competitors. In nature we say it’s the survival of the fittest. Animals adapt or die. There is no morality involved. However, in human nature we’ve been caring for the sick and weak even before we laid claim to being civilized. Morality divides the world into good and bad. Integrity stands guard over the lines we draw in the moral sands.
If I spray painted a brick with gold leaf paint, it would pass as a gold brick but not as a brick of gold. It would work as a play prop, but this counterfeit brick would fail in chemistry analysis, x-ray inspection, and weight tests. At the end of the play it would still be a worthless clay brick under a pretty shell. Likewise integrity is thorough and runs through one’s core. It is not window dressing or a fashion statement. It passes all the tests as the genuine article. Not vinyl made to look like leather or rare veneer made to cover cheap plyboard. No, integrity is sterling if not perfect.
At the end of our lifetimes, will we be just a good shell who fooled the inspectors, or will we be found to have been solid, whole and sound? Sinless? No. Integrity does not have to be perfect, just good enough to stand up to the pressures imposed upon it. So, Blogoids, are you a person of integrity?