Each of us as individuals is endowed with a unique personality, temperament, and intelligence footprint. In addition, each of us holds a unique set of experiences and associations that span our lives from “womb to tomb”, so to speak. The combination of these two provides us with the way we understand ourselves, interpret who we are in the context of the world in which we live, and make meaning out of what happens to us along life’s path.
Because we are individuals, each of us sees ourselves as having distinctive characteristics in physical appearance, psychological profile, and “presence” among others. The concept of presence is related to what is called “integrity.” The diagram below shows the basic building blocks of integrity: purpose - why I exist; principles – what I stand for; and intentions – what I am up to.
A person’s integrity is an inherent product of the life process. It is inevitable. The nature of our integrity is obvious regardless of our conscious and deliberate awareness of it.
This leads to one of our primary challenges: to KNOW what our integrity is. Only we can determine what are our purposes, principles, and intentions. Just like we can’t opt out and not have integrity, no one else can determine ours for us. And when we have even touched or deeply felt what comprises our integrity it remains ours alone; hence, the drawing is black and white just as our self-knowledge, though changing over time, appears at any given moment to be cut and dried.
Ah, if it was only that simple! Alas, we are social beings. Our lives are enmeshed with the lives of others. The diagram below positions the integrity of a person in the context of five general social categories wherein each of us is placed in relationship to others.
Family members, the locations where we live, our employers, the political platforms we advocate, and the religious beliefs we hold, etc. contribute to a “web of experiences” we share with others and influence our sense of ourselves. These social structures have direct impact on the context in which our lives are conducted.
We tell stories about our experiences that project our integrity through the filters and screens of the groups to which we “belong.” Our true selves – our integrity – is often concealed in the shadows overlaid by layers of interpretation about us that are not really ours. Those stories may or may not speak about how we really feel and what we really think and how we really believe, but how someone else wants us to.
This theme is expressed in the illustration below. Because our relationships with others are lifelong, complex, and filled with nuances of meaning that extend from unrecalled memories, our integrity becomes lost in a maze of questions about who I am, who is speaking for me, what are they saying about me, and is this REALLY my truth being spoken.
Being lost is not a permanent condition. Being found is to confront the primary challenge mentioned above of knowing what integrity is and addressing the confounding questions honestly and openly. Peeling back the onion-like layers of representation that shroud our integrity is an exercise in independent investigation of truth – a fundamental endeavor for a knowledge broker.
As the picture below suggests, aligning with our integrity “projects” our voices. And with our voices, we can say who we are, what is happening to us, and what it means to us and others. In other words, we speak the ground truth and with that truth spoken and heard, the groundwork is laid for our participation rather than to have others represent us on our behalf.
Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Wednesday, August 31, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005