“The state of being whole and undivided.”
That is one of two basic definitions for the word integrity. I am kind of stickler for integrity. Partly because it was a character trait that I had to develop in my early adulthood. I am not saying that I had a habit of being two-faced about issues or that I routinely lied when it was convenient for me. No, integrity for me came in the form of bringing my emotional worlds together. Without knowing it I had a whole repressed emotional life left over from childhood. For years I kept it at bay by following a path of ambition, over-achievement, and external boosts to my ego.
The path of “being whole and undivided” came for me when I could no longer hold the tiger back from his cage of repression and compartmentalization. The work of integrity came for me when I was forced to bring the fragile, scared, and hurting 3-year old into the same room as my well-endowed resume . I could go into that on another post or better yet, you could just read it about it in my book Alone: A 4,000 Mile Search for Belonging and save me the trouble!
But the point of this today is just to remind us, all of us–religiously faithful, spiritually inclined, and Americans of every stripe–that integrity is important. Without integrity our world gets thrown into emotional, spiritual, and political chaos. Without integrity our souls are warped, our spirits become fractured, and our lives are left shallow and infantile.
I am big on integrity. Which is why my whole body and soul literally tremble with just about every broadcast, tweet and press conference related to our new president. I need to say now that I was no fan of George W. Bush. I didn’t agree with his worldview and politics. I often felt his policies were dead wrong and even destructive. And quite honestly I didn’t think he had the sophisticated intellect required of the presidency. But at least he was consistently wrong for the consistent and rational reasons. At least his policies and his politics were predictable. People of integrity say one thing and do the same thing–even if it’s wrong! (Of course, he failed the integrity test at times, but at this point I am willing to admit that relatively speaking, he was a person of integrity).
I could make a list three pages long if I wanted to regarding President Trump’s lack of integrity, but I won’t. We see it every day on TV. Our Facebook pages blare the message on every other post. And I wouldn’t doubt it if he is even chasing us in our dreams at night. But a couple of reminders of his blatant disregard for integrity bear repeating.
- Trump has consistently and ferociously attacked the New York Times as being fake news. Fine. He has a right to do that. I think he is dead wrong about this. I also think he is an ass for doing it. But he can do it. What he can’t do is turn around the next week and name the New York Times as his definitive, reliable and authoritative source for his “wiretapping” accusations. Integrity is the “state of being whole and undivided.”
- During the campaign he dismissed the 4.8% unemployment numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as being “phony, totally fiction, totally made up.” In fact, at different times he said that the actual numbers were probably closer to 35%, 40%, and 42%, depending on which speech you heard (he doesn’t quote numbers, he feels them). But like the wave of a magic wand last week it was reported by BLS that with the ongoing recovery of the economy that the number had fallen from 4.8% to 4.7%. Guess what? The numbers were no longer phony and fictional to Trump. Now they represented Trump’s savior-like effect on the economy. Had he had any integrity he would have explained how it was that he took the unemployment rate down from 40% to 4.7% in the matter of just 50 days or he would have apologized for discrediting the earlier numbers. Integrity requires a unity of truth and perception.
I know I don’t need to make this obvious to all of you. Unfortunately, it is all too painfully obvious to us already. But I need to write this because we are witnessing the person who is most central to our political, economic, and cultural life putting on display a performance of a man “divided against himself.”
In many ways the president is the glue that holds us together. He embodies our American ideals. She holds us to our constitutional center. They act like a statesmen, and by doing so, call all Americans to a higher standard of behavior.
Except that this man does not embody our American ideals. He embodies a chaotic psyche, a warped soul, a mean spirit, and a cold heart. His own internal disunity and psychic chaos risks fracturing a cultural and national integrity.
Remember integrity is the state of bringing something into wholeness and pulling that which is divided into unity. Integrity is the glue that holds a democratic people together. Without integrity the pieces start to fall apart. The whole becomes fractured. The unified becomes divided. And democracy (a system of government by the whole population) chokes and dies.
Only dictators have no need for political, cultural, moral, and spiritual integrity. Only dictators can demand that we call the New York Times fake news one day and hold it up as a credible and authoritative source the next day. Only sinister people try to convince us that their warped worldviews are superior to ours. Only crazy people expect their craziness to become the norm.
We can’t let Trump win. He is a divided man. We can’t let him divide us too.