Saturday, March 03, 2007


I had been reading "Living a Life That Matters" by Rabbi Harold Kushner.
I didn't finish it before it was time to take it back to the library, but I got some good stuff out of it nonetheless.

However, I'm still pondering over a particular passage to decide what meaning it has for me.

Rabbi Kushner writes:

“integrity means being whole, unbroken, undivided. It describes a person who has united the different parts of his or her personality, so that there is no longer a split in the soul. When your soul is divided, part of you wants to do one thing while part wants to do something else…. You are at war with yourself, and the struggle leaves you uncomfortable. When you have integrity, all of your aspirations are focused in one direction. Like the karate expert who can break a board with his bare hands by focusing all his strength on one spot, the person of integrity, the person whose soul in not fragmented; can do great things by concentrating all of his energies on a single goal. For the person of integrity, life may not be easy but it is simple: Figure out what is right and do it. All other considerations come in second.”

I can't even imagine a world of such consistency. My inner experience has always been filled with tremendous contradictions.

The thing is...I'm wondering if I am prone to reject Kushner's definition of integrity simply because to accept that view would so utterly disqualify me, or if I sincerely believe in an alternate model of what it means to bear integrity.

In my mind it's about being honest, principled, trustworthy. To me, it means doing what's right even when my inner self may be warring, fractured and inconsistent - much the same way that true bravery is NOT the absence of fear but rather taking courageous acts in the face of abundant fear.

I believe I can experience and express integrity even though my inconsistent soul often tumbles and turns through a myriad of different longings, beliefs, behaviors, and ways of being.

Or am I just kidding myself?


Marie said...

I don't know what the "true" definition of integrity is. Language is always shifting, so pinning down one real meaning is impossible, even with a dictionary. But I agree that if we use the rabbi's definition of integrity, then the term becomes nearly useless to describe most of us mere mortals, at which point we need to invent a term to describe the sort of quality you describe -- one of doing what you need to do even when your inner workings and your motives are less than straightforward. I think about this topic A LOT and I think the members of my congregation are sick of hearing me harp on it. The scripture that gives me comfort in my imperfect efforts to better align my impure motives and my righteous actions -- and reassures me that my actions are not necessarily worthless if they are not always purely motivated -- is 2 Nephi 32:9 (Book of Mormon).

Belladonna said...


Yes, that scripture is a great one:

"But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul." (2 Neph 32:9)

Another favorite of mine is

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." Ether 12:27

I also love the verse from Isaiah that speaks about how though our sins be as scarlet they can be made white as snow. (1:18)

I am very, VERY aware of my fallen mortal nature and all the weaknesses and limitations I have. It helps sometimes to remind myself that my shortcomings are part of the plan, that my lack of perfection is DELIBERATE in my creation.

My responsibility of course is how I choose to respond - in attitude and intent as well as action.

I can generally conform my WORKS to the things I know are "right". But sometimes that rebellious spirit of mine still lags behind...

That's when I turn to scriptures like the one in Mark that says:

"...Lord, I believe; Help thou my unbelief." (Mark 9:24)

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