A Spiritual Theme for January: Integrity

Wholeness is never lost; it is only forgotten. Integrity rarely means that we need to add something to ourselves: it is more an undoing than a doing, a freeing ourselves from beliefs we have about who we are and ways we have been persuaded to “fix” ourselves… Often in reclaiming the freedom to be who we are, we remember some basic human quality, what we find is almost always a surprise but it is also familiar; like something we have put in the back of a drawer long ago…

Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom

We know the usual “integrity advice”: Build your character! Get better at being honest, with others and yourself!

It’s about addition, we’re told. Being better. Becoming more.

But our faith, like Rachel Naomi Remen, says it’s more complicated than that. Some subtraction is also needed. Removal needs to occur. The path needs cleared.

And why? Well because integrity isn’t simply something we build; it’s something already there. We UUs talk mostly about inherent worth, but we also believe in inherent integrity. All the building blocks are sitting there, waiting. They are, as Remen says, hidden like something we have put in the back of the drawer long ago.

It’s all a reminder that our integrity is much more closely tied to memory than we acknowledge. Those moments from our youth when we felt most truly ourselves. Those mentors and models that departed wisdom about what really matters. It’s all there. Just forgotten. As the poet, Charles Bukowski says, “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

So friends, please don’t make this month just about “being better.” Make some time to also be quiet. Think of the hunt for integrity more like getting away from all the noise of the traffic so the song of the birds can be heard. Or like when we wandered off a bit too far into the woods as a kid. It could have been scary, but somehow we knew that all we had to do was stand still and listen. We knew the call of our parents would soon come, leading us back home. It’s the same with our memories and our deepest selves: They are calling to us from the edge of the woods.

All we have to do is stop and listen.