A person who is wise knows who to be and what to do in any given situation; to be virtuous, he or she acts upon that wisdom. While we all know that we are supposed to be kind, generous, loving, and happy people, we don’t all make it our goal to be those things. In most cases, this chasm between understanding and doing is the dark pit in which people lose their identity and sense of self.
Our values and virtues are the cornerstones of our integrity and happiness and every violation of them is a sharp blow against them. In spite of this, each time we take a stand for our integrity, we are adding another brick to the magnificent construction of character we are constructing every single day. Therefore, let us choose wisely how we live our lives.
1. Integrity begins with the preparation of our minds before we act, which is the first practice of integrity. A major decision or action should never be taken without taking into consideration the three most significant facets of our lives: our well-being of ourselves, the relationships we have with our loved ones, and our responsibilities to our society. As we are about to make a choice, we must ask ourselves, “Will the choices I am about to make support my sanity and happiness and also the health and well-being of my family and community?”? If my choices and actions were broadcast on the evening news then how would I feel about them? Would I be proud of my choices and actions? There have been many instances in which good people have descended into bad ones due to failing to ask these questions.
2. A second way to demonstrate integrity is to make sure that you don’t commit to anything that you aren’t passionate about. Our failures are often caused because we began something half-heartedly, which is one of the main reasons why we said yes to everything in the first place. We become more mature and enlightened as we grow older, we come to realize that if we are presented with an opportunity that does not gain our enthusiasm and commitment of us, then we should reply with a 100 percent no in order to be able to act on that opportunity. Frequently, when we break our integrity, we are committing things we don’t love to people we don’t care about over and over again. In today’s world, isn’t it vital that we live lives filled with an enthusiastic relationship with our work, our faith, and those who we have the privilege of knowing, caring for, and serving? In order to maintain this passion, let us make good use of our time by spending it wisely.
3. Keeping our word is the third of the three practices we should adhere to. Assuming that we have agreed to meet our lover at noon, then we must arrive at or before noon in order to be on time. As long as we commit to completing the project by Wednesday, we will submit it on Wednesday in order to meet that deadline. It would be unwise of us to gossip if we told another person we’d keep their confidence if we told them we’d keep their trust. Keeping true to yourself, being noble, and being trustworthy are one of the most important aspects of living. Imagine the feeling we would get as a result of completing our lives and saying, “I was someone that people could rely on.” When I said I would do something, I did it. As I have promised, I have given what I have promised. The fact that I delivered was due to my care for my integrity and the people in my life.” It is our duty to pray that we will be able to live such a life, and we should also complement those prayers with action.
4. Fourthly, it is very important that you always treat others with respect at all times. People often regret the way they treated people in their lives when they reflect on their lives in the future. In our personal relationships, almost all of the suffering that we experience comes from not respecting those around us or not respecting ourselves. In spite of this, very few people can define what respecting another means in a clear and concise way. In order to respect another person, it is important not to do damage; to respect their right to express themselves; and to honor the fact that their own thoughts, feelings, and actions are real and justifiable in their own minds, even if the rest of us might view them as unimportant or wrong. One can respect another’s right to speak, but not necessarily approve of what they have to say; one may respect someone’s right to speak, but may not necessarily approve of what they have to say. Our sense of respect involves recognizing that other people are doing the best they can with what they have, who they are, and what hand they have been dealt, regardless of whether we find their efforts to be lacking in any way. I believe the key to living a fulfilling life is to see the divinity in others and to never invite disrespect into our lives by projecting disrespect onto others.
5. There is a fifth practice that we should practice, which is telling the truth. What kind of trouble does lying get us into? How much trouble can lie get us into? We all know how a small lie can amplify the effects of a large upset or strained relationship that we are going through. Those who tell many lies are forced to live many lives, and they lack a singular character and a singular mind as a result. When a person lies today, he will be haunted tomorrow, until before the specter of his very own lie appears in front of everyone, at which point he will be preoccupied with judgments of others, and he will be haunted by them for the rest of his life. He is guaranteed only pain, both internally and externally, no matter what he does. There is no better way to wound oneself than to lie to oneself or to others. In order to avoid embarrassment and regret in the long run, we must never allow ourselves to be enslaved by the ease of lying temporarily. One small lie at a time cannot chip away at our integrity one by one, one by one.
6. Sixth, one of the most important practices is to always favor action over inaction. It is like standing at the edge of the river and not wading in to save a drowning child which is the same as standing at the edge of a river and not wading in to save that child if we remain doubtful and delayed. There comes a time in our lives when we see a beautiful woman who we want to converse with, but don’t approach her, and this causes us regret. The regret we will ultimately feel if we don’t take action if we dream of starting a new career but do nothing about it will ultimately consume us. There is a feeling of dismissal that occurs when we do not pursue something that we desire for good and meaningful reasons, which is like disallowing ourselves to become who we are. We possess less integrity with our hearts and minds the less we act, the less we have integrity with our own actions.
Our self-trust, self-knowledge, and self-love decrease the more we believe we don’t deserve it. Keeping this in mind, we should keep in mind that integrity refers to taking actions that are in line with our values and genuine desires. In order to follow these six practices, you do not need to do anything extra – they all come naturally. However, the reality is that most of our human suffering comes from our failure to maintain them on a day-to-day basis.
Human happiness can be experienced by enacting the majority of these practices as often as possible. Why is it that we universally admire and respect a man like Gandhi, a woman like Mother Teresa, a President like Lincoln, or a leader like any of the other great figures from history? There are many reasons for this, including the fact that these practices were based on integrity. They stood for something that was important to them. It is important to note that despite the struggles they faced, they did not break with their values.
Their words and actions were kept in harmony as a result of their integrity. They were good people. The example they set can be followed by us. Having the courage to be strong, to be proud, and to be respected are all things we can achieve. In order to make integrity a lifelong practice, we only need to make it one that we practice every day.