What does integrity really mean? These days it is a word that seems bigger than us and, for many, sadly unattainable. We equate it with morality–something that comes to us with a lot of shoulds, judgment, fear, guilt and inevitable failure. But what does it mean to “have integrity” ? What is “moral”?
It is becoming clearer to me that to be moral simply means to have our fragmented parts come together into wholeness–to have our separated parts integrate and relate and live through our “I”, or our higher ego, in wholeness. Having integrity doesn’t mean “not lying”. It is not quite as simple as that; it is more that our parts are integrated so that what we feel, think and will are in synch. Isn’t it an untruth, after all, to will something that does not resonate in our thinking or feeling? If these parts are integrated and whole in us, what space would be available for a lie to occur?
It can be as simple as taking your child to church–any church–just because you feel she needs religious instruction, even if in your heart you no longer believe in that church. To me, that is a bigger disservice to your child–especially a very young one–who really experiences God through her parents first. If, as parents, we are showing them something false, we are laying very tenuous ground for spirituality. It is so much better to find a way to pray together in a manner that truly resonates in your heart. It would even be better if you and your child tended your garden with love, reverence and respect towards nature, carrying in your heart the knowledge and appreciation of where all these gifts come from.
Another example is diet and health! How we love to tell our children to eat well, but how many of us really live this? As parents and teachers, it is so important that we live what we preach. If you live it, you don’t need to preach it. If you preach it but don’t live it, you are hurting the child, whether you are aware of it or not, because you are presenting a picture of fragmentation and untruth that children feel in their hearts, whether they see it or not. It is better for your children to see that you are striving to change, even if you fail from time to time, so that they see an authentic picture of what it means to be human–which is to constantly strive to change and transform our weaknesses, despite the difficulties. It doesn’t take much to prepare a healthy meal–a healthful sandwich, even–if we don’t have much time. But if it’s not something we are doing for ourselves, it will not be true for our children as well.
Because I want my children to be responsible for their own lives, look after their things, look after their needs and be independent, I do a lot of work at home. I have been getting flak for it, as people think I’m making my life harder than it should be, but to me it’s as simple as wanting my kids to grow up knowing how to DO things for themselves and their families. I don’t want them to be the typical Filipino male who can’t even heat water or make his own cup of coffee. My children know how to cook. They know how to wash dishes, set the table, clean up after themselves because they see me do it. It is part of our lives. That is a part of me that has finally integrated and I know my kids will be stronger individuals because of it.
The worst thing we can do is lie to our children–about anything. Lies come in many forms. If something in us is not true, our children are the first to spot it. As their parents, our greatest task is to work on our own integration. How? I think a good starting point is to ask ourselves important questions and sift through our belief systems, thought patterns, world views, traditions, etc. What do I really believe? Why? Where did it come from? Is it really mine?
When I became active in the Steiner school, even my family traditions changed. I celebrate milestones and festivals in a very different way with my children today. Christmas has come to mean something very deep to me and because I understand it now and have cast aside traditions I grew up with but in the end meant little (save for sentiments, nostalgia and family memories) to me as an adult, my children and I are creating our own, new ways of understanding and celebrating that are truly ours and have profound meaning for us. They may choose a different path as adults, but for now I know I am living something that is true for me.
In the end, isn’t that what integration is? That our parts become truly ours, each authentically linked to the next, all of them finally known and owned.