One Person, Indivisible

What is personal integrity? Mostly we think of integrity as obeisance to a specific moral or ethical code, or to a values system. Living with integrity implies honesty, trustworthiness, and adherence to responsibility. Sounds great on paper. However, you may have noticed that sometimes, you can be "doing everything right," and still be out of your integrity.

The word integrity stems from the Latin root integrinter, which means "entire." So in its simplest sense, integrity is wholeness, oneness, being complete and undivided.

If you experience confusion or inner turmoil over doing "the right thing," it could be an indication that you are out of your integrity. The world might tell you that it's your civic duty to vote, for example...even if you disagree with the platforms of all of the candidates. Following orders and obeying the rules might make you a good citizen, a good son or daughter, a good student, a good religionist, a good employee...and it can also make you a blind, robotic follower.

Out of integrity, we can get caught up in rigidity posing as the moral or spiritual high road...and this can be contrary to our well-being and that of others. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is a great commandment, and mightn't it be unloving to thyself and others to subject thyself to a neighbor who not only won't stop blasting the stereo after repeated requests, but turns it up even stay married to a cheating spouse when infidelity isn't okay with you...or to spend time with family when you don't want to because a "spiritual" person should suck it up and deal, with the sort of loving detachment that you don't actually feel?

If "doing what's right" is not right for me, I get signals: sleepless nights, stomach aches, resentment. As Byron Katie says, stress is an alarm clock, letting you know it's time to wake the baby from the nightmare.

How can we really know we are out of integrity?

1. If something feels weird or off-kilter, even though it's something you have always done before
2. If you are acting out of guilt or obligation
3. If you don't like yourself when you do something
4. If you have to lie about what you're doing, even a "white lie"
5. If you're in a box, even if it's one of your own creation, and it's feeling stuffy in there

Trustworthiness and responsibility arise naturally when we are complete and undivided within. To be honest with others, we must first get honest with ourselves. To get honest with ourselves, we must first know ourselves. To know ourselves...we inquire.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Independence Day

Think of an uneasy situation that you've been living with for some time. Write down your reasons for staying in the situation. Some examples:

"If I don't stay in my relationship, it means I am weak."
"The guru is testing me."
"Change is too difficult."
"If I don't visit my parents every weekend, it means I don't love them."
"I should be more tolerant."
"I need to support my family.""
"He'd never get over my leaving him."

Take your thought to inquiry using the four questions and turnaround of The Work of Byron Katie:

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought? (What happens?)
4. Who would you be without this thought?
Turn the thought around; is the turnaround as true or truer?
Find three genuine examples of how each turnaround is as true or truer than the original statement.

Notice the physical sensations that take place when you attach to beliefs that are not true for you. See if these beliefs bring up thoughts of self-hatred, and if so, what do you do with those thoughts? Do you turn to addictions, compulsions, distractions? For instance, in order to deal with a work situation that isn't working for you, do you overeat, or drink a lot of coffee? If you feel your spouse doesn't love you, do you have affairs, or work late, or spend hours on the internet?

Take special note of any underlying beliefs that arise in the course of your inquiry, and write them down. (For instance, "Marriage is forever," "My family depends on me," "Spiritual people don't get angry.") Ask yourself what you are afraid of losing, or of not getting, if you no longer believed these thoughts. (Example: "If I stand up for myself, she will leave me." "I'm too old to find another job.")

Doing this work doesn't mean you have to leave the situation, or even that you will want to. This is about understanding your motives; no action required. Unquestioned beliefs can make us feel lonelier than we would on a desert island. Independence means releasing ourselves from the bondage of beliefs that no longer serve you.

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Carol L. Skolnick, M.A., is a Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie, a simple yet transformative way to identify and question the thoughts that cause all of the suffering in the world. For more information and to subscribe to Carol's newsletter, visit