Do not do what you hate,
because everything here lies open
Nothing hidden will remain secret,
for the veil will be stripped away from
all that lies concealed behind it.”
Logian 6, The Gospel of Thomas
“What the &%$ is this?!!!!”
I stared at the corner of our basement bedroom floor with total disbelief.
We had gotten possession of our house one week prior only to discover that the former owner still had a lot of furniture and items throughout the house. When she finally hired someone to come in and remove it all I was gifted by an extraordinary surprise in the basement: mold. Clearly there had been extensive water damage that the inspectors had missed due to the excessive furniture the owner had cleverly used to hide it.
While we worked with our agent in trying to contact her, she had gone MIA. After months of phone calls and emails to no avail, we made the most of it by roping off entire sections of the finished basement to keep our kids away from the mold. As fate would have it, the pipes burst in our house 4 months later, flooding our entire basement and parts of the upstairs. The whole downstairs was gutted, and gratefully, the mold was remediated and rotting wood dealt with.
There was an absence of integrity all around, both by the seller and in the structure of the house itself.
Whenever I think of the word “integrity” I tend to picture a building, or a solid structure.
I’ll blame my Baptist childhood for that, thanks to a decade of singing “The wise man built his house upon a rock," but it is a correct use of the word integrity. Integrity does not just define someone as trustworthy and honest, it can also describe a structure as sound, well constructed, and solid (with no hidden mold or rotting wood, for instance. )
The Latin root for the word integrity is integer…which interestingly enough is the same root both for Integrity (meaning intact) as well as the word “entirety” (meaning whole, undivided). So while we culturally mostly use “integrity” to mean a person’s moral uprightness and honesty, a truer definition of it is “the state of being whole and undivided.”
As I look around at the polarizing divisions happening in our country it’s pretty clear that learning how to live a life of integrity is not just a nice moral goal, but an ethical responsibility. Our political landscape has become an all out circus, both parties claiming to be trustworthy and full of integrity. It’s easy enough (you would think) to look at our candidates and see some gaping discrepancies in those claims, and be totally baffled at how we got here.
While it is always easier to point out the absence of integrity in politicians, integrity will become what will define us in this moment as a country: whether or not we will collectively move against ideologies of fear, sexism, racism, isolationism and policies that threaten our very evolution as a members of a global society.
But when it comes to discerning our own personal integrity the dissonance, division, “mold” (or hidden rot like we explored last week) is harder to see and identify. The reason for this is frustratingly simple in theory but much trickier to re-orient in practice:
We tend to approach the concept of integrity from the outside in, rather than from the inside out.
Our western, ambitious roll-up-your-sleeves and work hard culture has taught us to keep a strong external game: look good, be put together, belong to the right kinds of groups, proceed through life in the expected trajectory and in the right sequential order.
Integrity, therefore, while still carrying its benchmark definition of honesty and truthfulness, has culturally become coopted to mean fitting in, of belonging to a particular set of rules and systems of thought….which is particularly true in political or religious contexts.
We desperately want to do the right thing, but the right thing becomes ever more elusive as we flounder between the expectations of “our tribe” (which often includes our family’s expectations of us) and our own interior instincts.
If our lives are so highly driven by the desire to belong and externally fit in (particularly to specific political or religious contexts)
...is it even possible to live a life of integrity? What will we do when our conscience or instincts begin to speak up within us? What if those instincts are evolution calling us to more...to an option that wasn’t on the prescribed “this is what we expect you to do” hand-out?
Will we just keep piling up the furniture, throw a carpet over it and pretend there isn’t an internal discrepancy?
Like a single out of tune instrument in the whole orchestra, that little part of us that we are trying to cover over, hide, or ignore will create an internal friction: a nagging dissonance capable of disrupting the entire unity of the symphony of our lives. You might think you can fool yourself by just beckoning the horn and rhythm section to up the ante and play louder…but the cohesive whole has been compromised, and eventually there will be a reckoning: either the one instrument will slowly make all the instruments go out tune, or the cacophony will slowly grow within you until you have no choice to stop moving the baton and address the internal dissonance one instrument at a time until you locate its source.
There are many references of Jesus addressing integrity as the act of aligning our interior landscape with our external actions and vice versa…but my favorite has to be from the above Gospel of Thomas quote.
“Stop lying. Do not do what you hate!”
What is most shocking about this Logion is that Jesus doesn’t say:
“Just try harder to fit the prescribed version of your life that your (parents, religious institution, societal framework) want for you!!!!!!"
Jesus pairs the request to stop lying with doing something that you KNOW deep down you hate doing.
Elsewhere in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says,
“When you are able to make two become one,
the inside like the outside,
And the outside like the inside,
The higher like the lower,
So that a man is no longer male,
And a woman, female,
But male and female
Become a single whole…
Then you will enter in.”
Now, this isn’t to mean we are on a path to become asexual amorphous blobs…but rather the challenge is toward becoming undivided: the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside, to become a single whole.
Not surprisingly, the more we "tune" our inside to our outside and vice versa, the less we will identify with the external assigned roles or gage our integrity by the expectations set on us by societal or religious institutions. The more we "tune" our inside to our outside and vice versa, the more we will discovery that integrity is an interior alignment as an undivided whole to the undivided WHOLE cosmos.
Integrity becomes less about belonging to the pack, and more about becoming as sensitive as a tuning fork: capable of noticing not only where there is interior dissonance, but societal, economic, and environmental dissonance as well.
Jesus modeled this well: as an evolutionary revolutionary he lived a life of total commitment to that kind of radical integrity and continually called people’s attention to where things were out of tune and creating false divisions.
Jesus didn’t at all fit the moral expectations of his religious culture but rather aligned with the marginalized, the poor, those whose voices were dismissed, silenced and ignored by the society of his time. For that very reason he earned the nickname “Ihidaya," which we’ve incorrectly translated to mean “the single one” (as in celibate), when in fact its meaning is much closer to: “the single-hearted one” or…the “undivided one.”
Mystic paleontologist and priest, Teilhard de Chardin, believed that evolution was on a path of convergence: that we are slowly becoming a unified whole. Our world sure doesn’t seem to be on the path toward unity at the moment, but when we scale back and consider the very real technological advances and globalization that have occurred in the last 30 years we can see it: in the midst of all this friction, we are becoming more and more interconnected...
The invitation before us is to leave behind our nationalistic identifications in favor of identifying ourselves as planetary.
The invitation before us to trust in what science is showing us: there is no action done in isolation without consequence to the whole, there is no “I”…only “We.”
And if we have the eyes to see it and the ears to tune ourselves to that kind of radical holistic frequency, the invitation before us is to participate in the advancement of evolution itself by having the courage to trust that little voice in us calling us toward a possibility we haven't even dreamt of yet.
We must begin to see ourselves as active players in this great unfolding symphony and therefore recognize the very real responsibility we have to notice what is out of tune in ourselves so that we actively help tune the whole.
How are you lying to yourself?
In what ways are you equating integrity with an external societal or religious pressure to fit in? With the pressure to keep things as they are and not disrupt the “norm”?
What if having integrity means trusting that little evolutionary voice calling us toward something more than what is “expected” and has been prescribed?
Tune yourselves, evolutionaries… Stop lying. Do not do what you hate. Move toward integrity. The more we become undivided ourselves, the more we will better serve this world in becoming undivided.