Monday, December 1, 2008


Integrity is not a conditional word.
It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather.
It is your inner image of yourself,
and if you look there and see a man who won’t cheat,
then you know he never will.
~ John D. MacDonald

Once, on a fabulous travel adventure in Bali, I was introduced to a man I’ll call Franklin. Distinguished by a headful of grey hair and a peacefulness that permeated his being, Franklin had a story to tell and I was eager to hear it.

You see, once upon a time, many moons ago, Franklin had been a seminary student, training for the priesthood. He loved his work and spiritual life and believed that he was on the right path.

Then he met Ana.

At first, he remained faithful to his commitment to the priesthood, but as his friendship with Ana deepened, and the love in his heart grew, he found himself questioning his decision . . . the path that once felt so right suddenly paled in comparison to the color of love. He couldn’t stop thinking about Ana.

He knew it wasn’t fair to continue this way—in limbo. Making a choice, he thought—any choice—had to be better than the paralyzing effect of his indecision. And, not wanting such a monumental decision to be influenced in any way by the presence of a beautiful woman or his raging hormones, he took some time away—from the seminary and Ana—to clear his head and tune into his higher wisdom.

As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, something began to crystallize for him; the way forward became clear, as his heart spoke the truth: One can serve God and love a woman, they are not mutually exclusive paths. And there were many ways for him to serve his God, he concluded, without turning from romantic love; yet following the priesthood, by its very nature, would deny his right to live in both worlds.
So after months of prayer and contemplation, he resigned his seminary seat and followed his heart back to Ana . . . only to discover that she, too, had moved on. Ana was married.

Disappointed? Yes, he was; but Franklin remained true to himself and his decision. Breaking up Ana’s marriage was not the way forward, he knew; adultery would never be his path. And having made the decision to leave the seminary, that door felt closed to him. So he did the only thing that made sense: He enrolled in law school, studied hard and graduated at the top of his class. Then he took a job in the law firm where Ana worked as an attorney.

He only wanted to be near her, to have the opportunity to work with her and be in her circle of friends. And there he stayed, a platonic confidant, colleague and friend, for more than 25 years until Ana’s marriage came to its natural conclusion.

Then and only then did Franklin profess his love for Ana, and she for him.

As the story unfolded, I knew that Franklin was a man of great integrity. He knew who he was, what he stood for and what he would never compromise. Even when his path to Ana came to a grinding halt, he remained true to the personal standards by which he lived, never seeking for himself that which was not truly available to him, honoring himself and Ana’s marriage in the process.

Now Franklin provides ethics training for judges-elect, where he speaks to men and women about the inextricable nature of personal, social and professional ethics. They cannot be separated, he says, and he begins each session with this advice: “Before you read the law, you must determine where you stand on an issue—morally and ethically—because you will always find a way around, over or under the law to support your position. It boils down to what you believe to be true about that issue on the deepest level; start with that, and your way forward will be made clear.”

So it is with integrity, which says that when we’re connected with our moral and spiritual truth it cannot be shifted by circumstance. We assert that truth, quietly, through our choices, without self-righteousness or hidden agendas. There is no need to convince others of anything because whether they agree with us or not is of little consequence. No explanation, justification or excuse will do: The fact that no one else will ever know of our behavior or choice does not make it right in our hearts, because whatever “it” is acts as a personal barometer for us. When we act with integrity, we stand undivided; our thoughts, words, choices and actions are aligned, and that comes with its own kind of peace.

Think of integrity as the foundation of who we are and what we stand for (or won’t). When we’re true to it—not because some law tells us to or because we might get caught, but because we know that it’s the right thing to do for our life—we live in balance. From this place we are free and clear to create what we most want, in harmony with the very essence of who we are and what we believe in.

What about you? What do you stand for? Where will you draw the line?

1 comment:

Theresa said...

What a beautiful story! Is this true?