The biggest challenge of introspection isn't the chaos we feel in the experience of internal conflict. The biggest challenge isn't even about not knowing how to "do" introspection—that's easy enough to remedy. The biggest challenge to resolving internal conflict is the resistance that keeps us from creating order through honest seeking.
Seeking answers, order, truth, isn't easy—not because we don't know how. It's not that complex, but it is hard at times because every step is a trial of integrity.
Integrity is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. So much so that it's beginning to take on a meaning that is something like, "Make sure you have good intentions." But integrity isn't just, or even mainly, about good intentions.
Integrity is a concern for wholeness and unity in one's being. It's an honest interest in consistency between what we say and do and within our own feelings and beliefs. Integrity is opposed not only to blatant hypocrisy, but also to the double-mindedness in desire that leads to it.
Integrity is serious business that goes far beyond simple good intentions. A desire for integrity, for wholeness, takes us beyond our current consciousness. It drives us to uncover our own inconsistencies and irrational beliefs.
That hurts. And that pain produces resistance. Voila. The Trial of Integrity.
This trial presents itself as a question. The question appears in different forms, but it is essentially the same. Do you really want to be whole?
Of course it's not that overt and that's why we often miss it. The question is present in all kinds of expressions.
Will you wake up to what's happening or are you really more comfortable being asleep? Is there a part of you that likes feeling helpless and not responsible for your own life and happiness?
Will you assume you're right, or question yourself? Will you avoid this or face it? Will you engage or distract?
Will you deceive yourself by blaming others, or saying it's not important, or believing that you have no control over it, or will you accept responsibility?
Will you open or close?
Will you conform or stand on principle?
It's easy to think the answer would always be the high-minded one, isn't it? But these aren't easy questions to face when what's at stake is our acceptance, or relationships, our sense of connection to others or even our sense of self. When there is a high cost associated with choosing the path of integrity we easily move into self-deception. We tell ourselves that we have integrity merely because we intend to have it. We rest in our desire for integrity and confuse that for an actual character trait.
A hard truth, yes, but true of humanity nonetheless, and a major resistance to resolving internal conflict. It's a hard truth that conceives, nurtures, and gives birth to many a secret, many a scandal, and many a personal crisis.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
We can choose to wake up, take responsibility and question ourselves with integrity in order to reach integrity.
It's risky and indeed it might cost us dearly. We may lose acceptance, approval, or relationships. If we've spent a lot of time conforming to the expectations and beliefs of others, we may even lose a sure sense of self for a while. But true integrity will pay the price for more consistency because integrity is more concerned about truth than sacrifice. Integrity prefers less with honesty than more with lies.
Want to increase your integrity?
Fear the consequences of existing in a fractured state: the secret, the scandal, the personal crisis. Or maybe it won't be so obvious. Maybe what you need to fear most is what Henry David Thoreau observed, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." Most men. Why when something is true of most men do we so quickly dismiss that we might be among them and not realize it?
Increasing integrity begins with the right kind of fear. Not the fear of what we might lose if we pursue wholeness, but rather, the fear of what it will cost us if we don't. And the fear of not even realizing we're in the middle of paying that high price.
The right kind of fear moves us in the direction of greater integrity. It gives us the courage to engage the conversation in our own souls.
And that brings us back around to the very important topic of diplomacy. You begin resolving conflicts by choosing to consciously engage them. You build rapport and momentum by really listening to yourself. But coming to terms of peace requires more than engaging and listening. It takes carving out some common ground, establishing agreement about how the disagreement will be arbitrated.
Next, let's look at how to play peacemaker with yourself.