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There’s no Such Thing as Perfect Integrity

Last updated on August 19, 2020

“I like this peanut, but this shell is annoying! It’s good, but it’s a little salty.” What is the truth, do I like the peanut or not?

Looking For Truth

I have been interested in finding the truth since I was young. I have been passionate about trying to live in my integrity for a long time. And that passion has only intensified since I started doing The Work.

The bottom line is that I want my consciousness to be clear, simple, and transparent from bottom to top. But the problem is that it’s not always that simple. The truth is that life is full of contradictions and opposites. 

You May Experience This When You Answer Question 1

Question 1 of The Work of Byron Katie is, “Is it true?” This powerful question makes me stop and question my assumptions. But what an exercise! As I look, I start to see that there are two sides to everything. 

What is the truth, then? It can be confusing. I think that’s why many of us prefer not to look for the truth at all. But that too can be problematic. If I don’t look at all, I continue to live blindly.

So the real question is, “How do I look for the truth without getting confused by its nuances?” 

To Answer This Let’s Look at an Example of Preferences

What is my truth? What is my preference? What is my integrity? For example, do I like sugar or not? 

My doctor encouraged me to stop eating sugar two years ago and it has improved my health a lot. But what is my integrity? What is my preference? 

Like anything, I can see two sides to it. On the one hand, I notice how I don’t get sick when I don’t eat sugar, and I don’t overeat. I like the feeling of more steady energy that comes from eating whole-wheat chapatis, and freshly cooked lentils and vegetables. I like not having cravings anymore.

But does that mean that I don’t actually like sugar? No. I still like the taste of sugar and sweet things. To pretend that I don’t would be denial. 

There Has to Be Room for Both Sides to Live

An open mind does not discredit either side: I like eating sugar, and I like not eating sugar. Both are true for me. And there is a lot of freedom in owning each of these.

My integrity is this: I like each for different reasons. I appreciate the sensual pleasure of sweet and I appreciate the feeling of balance in my body of not eating sweets. When I accept and acknowledge both then I’m free. There is no should. I am open.

But From that Openness, I Have to Land Somewhere

Life cannot be lived in a practical way if I am just open to all sides and try to act from there. I cannot both be eating sugar and not eating sugar at the same time. I cannot both be living in Canada and living in the United States at the same moment. I cannot both be in a relationship and out of it at the same time.

On the practical side of living, I have to land somewhere. I have to take sides. Otherwise, I am left in limbo land unable to act. Action requires decision making, it requires taking a step in one direction, and away from its opposite. 

This May Feel Like a Lack of Integrity

I landed on not eating sugar, and overall I’m happy with my decision. It is really working for me. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not attracted to sugar and sweet treats. 

So am I in denial? Wouldn’t integrity mean that I would not deny myself sweets if they are truly attractive to me? 

In my experience, the answer is no, it is not denial. 

Denial would be pretending that I don’t like the taste of sweet at all. But I’m not doing that. I own the truth that I like the taste. But I also see that there is more to it than taste alone. I like the feeling in my body of eating without sugar. That is worth more to me than the taste of sweet. And if I have to choose, this is where I land. 

This Is Integrity

But it’s not perfect integrity. In my experience, there is no such thing as perfect integrity because everything in life has two sides. And I have to land on one side or the other in order to act. 

So my actions must be limited by nature. By acting from one part of my integrity I must necessarily act against another part of my integrity. That is just the setup we have here in this world.

But it doesn’t mean I can’t hold an open space deeper inside of me, beneath the world of actions. My mind is perfectly capable of holding the good of both sugar and non-sugar deep inside, while at the same time landing on no sugar as a course of action. 

In other words, actions can never fully reflect my integrity. They must land on one side or the other. But inside I can be fully open to every side. That is freedom within boundaries. 

Want to Explore More of that Inner Freedom?

If you’re interested in integrity, truth and freedom, then I invite you to look inward for your truth by doing The Work. The Work starts with the pain of one-sidedness and opens up an area deep inside where opposites can coexist. 

Having found that place of integrity inside, then it becomes easier to land again in the world of one-sided preferences and decisions. If you want to gain some experience with this kind of inquiry, join us for my online course, The Work 101, Sep 14 – Oct 15, 2020. I’d love to meet you there.

Have a great week

“I love how mind changes. I watch it and am steadfast in that delight. I love the sweet movement and flavor of mind changing. I move as it moves, without an atom of resistance. It shifts like the wind. I say yes, because there is no reason to say no, and I say no very easily, too. No is as effortless as yes. I say whatever I know is true for me. It sometimes confuses people; they misunderstand, and they do what they need to do with it. And I am very clear that a no is as loving as a yes, because I am always saying yes to my integrity. A no is a yes, too, when it comes from integrity.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Further reading: The Value of Committing to “Yes” or “No”

About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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