Merriam-Webster defines integrity as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” Even though integrity is a quality, rather than a skill, we can work on developing our integrity—making the best choices, speaking the truth, and behaving according to strong morals. In The Four Agreements, spiritual teacher Don Miguel Ruiz provides us with a guide to overcome our moral hurdles and to speak from a place of love. Not only can we use this as a guideline for ourselves, but we can use this template to look deeper into the integrity of others.
Ruiz’s First Agreement implores us to be impeccable with our word—speak only the truth. Speak from a place of awareness in your heart; you cannot speak with love if you do not have it in your heart. The ability to speak is the most powerful tool we have, and that makes this the most difficult agreement to follow. The words we speak, and the actions we choose to take, define us. One wrong word can leave a negative impression on our network of friends and coworkers.
Being impeccable with our word does not necessarily mean that we are perfect. We are human after all, and to err is human. But being impeccable with our word means that we take responsibility for whatever comes from our words or actions. We all have a conviction in our beliefs and opinions, and some of those convictions can be strong. When we try to share our opinions with others, they will likely be ready to defend their own beliefs.
The result may be an argument. We may speak from our emotions, rather than logic, ultimately saying things that we would normally never have said. Because of this, relationships may be weakened, compromised, or even lost. When we enter into a discussion involving differing beliefs, we must take into consideration the potential consequences of our speech and content. We should continue to strive to express our highest self. When we speak mindlessly, we make unconscious choices with our speech that can ultimately lead to regret.
We are experiencing an increasing amount of tension, stress, and political divide—particularly during today’s contentious elections—so we must be even more aware of the power of our words. When we use the power of the word to spread negativity, hatred, chaos, and division we are not being the best we can be. The results of our actions can bring others down with us, and even cause the end of some relationships. Sometimes, this toxic communication comes from a place of revenge, worry, or stress; other times it comes from not understanding how to be our best self. By understanding what it means to be impeccable with our word, we clear the potential for negative thoughts to enter our intentions, we speak and act from a place of love and truth, and we communicate our opinion peacefully.
How do we perform a self-check to ensure we are living, acting, and speaking with integrity? How can we ensure that our words come from our hearts, and a place of love and compassion? How can we be an example to others? How can we ensure that our relationships with those of differing opinions remain strong? Let’s look at six characteristics that go hand-in-hand with integrity, and that allow us to communicate from a place of love and good intention.
Being considerate of others’ feelings, emotions, and ideas.
In its deepest sense, respect is an act of compassion for others; it is the recognition that we are all human beings, wishing to be happy and avoid suffering. People with high integrity will show respect for others, despite their differing opinions or views because they know we are all one at the level of spirit. Despite our differing viewpoints or political affiliations, respect is a neutral ground from which we may better understand each other.
Speaking from our heart and with a high level of truth.
When we communicate from a higher level, we speak clearly, finding a way to communicate that makes sense with our audience. We speak the truth, authentically, from our heart, and with the feelings of others in mind. When we find a difference in political opinion with others, we do not need to pretend to share the same opinion, just for the sake of keeping the peace.
Being candid with our political views can often eliminate the assumption that we share the same views as others, allowing them to keep this in mind when they discuss these topics. However, it is important to remember that in skillfully speaking your truth, you want to strive to do so in a way that does not cause a further divide, or hurt feelings. Find a way to speak the “sweet” truth.
Creating a safe environment in which ideas may be shared.
Like a yoga teacher holding space in their class, creating a trustworthy environment allows the free-flow of ideas without fear of judgment, misunderstanding, or overreaction. When others trust you, they feel comfortable and are willing to share their feelings with the goal of reaching a higher understanding. Lacking trust, we feel insecure and unwilling to be ourselves. By being trustworthy, we allow others to be open and genuine with us.
Being accountable for our actions and words and understanding the impact they have on those around us.
Our words have consequences, whether in person or posted online. Our social media footprints are growing. What we say on social media does not go away—it lives in the virtual universe forever. What we choose to share on social media becomes that which others identify us. By sharing positive and uplifting messages and content, we create a positive image of ourselves while simultaneously raising the collective consciousness.
Accepting that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and not judging others based on their opinions. Giving people the time and consideration that they deserve.
Deepak Chopra tells us that “Everyone is acting from his own level of consciousness.” Not everyone shares the same political views. When we understand that those views are shaped by the ideals and messages with which a person grew up, we can accept these differences and come to a level of understanding of opinion. When we communicate with those who share different political affiliations, we accept their opinion, and do not try to push our ideals onto them.
Being friendly, considerate, and genuine, through thoughts, words, and actions.
Mark Twain once wrote, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Kindness is more than just being nice or polite. Kindness comes from the heart—when we act with kindness, we cannot act from a place of hate. When we are kind, we recognize each other’s differences and we move beyond them. Especially during an election year, we should strive to add more kindness into our daily routine. Kindness gives us the power to right a wrong, it helps us to strengthen relationships, and it leads to happiness. Kindness will always come back to us.
Prior to speaking or acting, ask yourself the following question made famous by longtime radio host Bernard Meltzer: “Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”
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