Webster defines’ integrity as: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic value: incorruptibility
Theodore Roosevelt – “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike”
Thomas Jefferson – “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching”
Ben Franklin – “Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil, so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.”
Defining integrity for myself means I act the same way I would whether someone was watching me or not.
Integrity is a something I place as a high value for my life. Unfortunately, I haven’t always lived my life this way. I learned to lie as a boy and act differently around different people. I maneuvered my way through life putting an image for others while my personal life was living nightmare of shame and dirty secrets.
Most of my life has been spent covering my tracks, wearing masks and putting up a front that wasn’t real. I spent countless hours having to track all this garbage and plan for the future. It was an utter and complete waste of time. My marriage and ultimately my relationships with everyone were slowly being destroyed because of all this. Even those who thought they were the closest to me had no idea.
My personality is one where I will continually do something, get hit in the head with a 2 X 4 repeatedly, walk away and go right back to the very thing. I guess it’s tenacity but not in a good way. You’d think I would be brain-dead by now as many times as I have been hit. Why it took me so long I really don’t have an answer for. In my mid-30’s I finally came to my senses and decided I was destroying everything I really cared about. I decided it was time I manned up.
When I decided to start truly being a man of integrity, I had to lay aside my pride, begin removing the masks and get real with who I a truly am. My first steps in attempting this was connecting with a group of guys who were committed to doing the same thing, we all came together by God’s divine intervention. My biggest fear going into this meeting was that no one would understand me; they would reject me. The first meeting I went to I remember being physically ill and intimidated and wanted to run as fast as I could and get away from there. I seriously felt like I was going to have a heart attack. My palms were sweating, my heart was beating and I felt light-headed. I listened as everyone brutally and honestly bared his soul. I could tell from the beginning this was not going to be like any other meeting I have ever been involved in. Because of my addictions and the various choices I have made I have always felt like I was the odd man out. When it was my turn I hesitantly started sharing my life and my stories. It all began pouring out. The tremendous amount of fear and rejection I had carried with me felt lifted. I was able to begin my first steps in being real about who I am. As I think back to that day, it felt like I spent an hour releasing all the lies I had kept hidden inside, all the evil, wicked thoughts and deeds I had ever done. Something changed that day deep within me. I soon realized the power of truth and its ability to set people free.
It hasn’t been easy, my mode of operation even after being involved with those men for several years I still fell back to old habits and patterns. When things got difficult I turned back to my addictions and putting on masks. As much as I said integrity was a huge deal for me, I was choosing not to live my life that way. It has taken a lot of hard work to go back and deal with layers and layers of junk. Even at church the one place I believed was safe, I’ve worn masks and made it seem like I was the “All-American Dad” this great Christian man, father and husband who had it all together. As a man I have purposely chosen other men in my life that I could get real with. I have shared all the nastiness of my past with them and have asked them to hold me accountable and call me out on stuff if they thought I was being fake and phony. This has played a significant role in my ability to apply integrity in my life.
I want others who see me, interact with me or even read what I write to know what you see is what you get, there isn’t some hidden agenda here. If you meet me in person you going to see me and see how I do life. Through tough times I have learned the value of living a life of integrity. I regret so many things I have done in my life where I have chosen less than wise decisions. Counseling, men’s groups and committed men in my life have all been the reason I have been able to stop wearing masks and see who I really am, see who God made me to be.
Now I live a very different life. I let integrity be my guide in most everything I do. I choose to be a Real Authentic Man, a man of quality and character. Yes I still have regrets from past mistakes, but as I move forward and mature I realize that living a life of integrity means I can be free and not be held back from the mistakes of my past. Choosing to live my life free from lies and masks makes for a sweet life and as Ben Franklin said a continual Christmas.