Tuesday, July 14, 2015


     It's such a heavy topic: Integrity. What does it even mean? Staying true to one's self? Walking the talk? Doing right even when no one is watching?
     I fail in so many ways in each of the above, yet am drawn to pursue a life of integrity as it seems the basis of so much that is good, noble, admirable, and worthy. I felt so strongly about it that I recently wrote a poem titled The Key that got published (see http://www.metrohnl.com/the-key/) whereby a found key tempts a fictional narrator to exchange his soul for whatever he desires. For him it's untold earthly wealth and admiration, which, obtained, comes at the cost of lost conscience, innocence, integrity, family, and relationship with God: It's a dark parable warning against selling oneself.
     I let Braden and Penelope read it but not Jaren as he's too young, and explained how we're all given choices, temptations, and demands to sell our souls for money, companionship, fame—anything we want. And I described how I'd been asked to sign documents I knew were false. And how I'd witnessed coworkers sign off—no hesitation—these same documents they knew were false. And all for what? To please a supervisor? They weren't even up for promotion. Their integrities meant nothing to them, no more than worthless trash. And I warned against selling their souls to anyone or for anything: Nothing's worth it, I said.
     One of the costs of doing shameful deeds, I explained, is having to duck people—those you've wronged or who know what you've done. There are some higher-ups at my workplace who avoid being seen outside for this very reason, guys who duck people left and right. So what if they're supposedly rich or powerful (they're not) if they don't have the freedom to go where they want or do what they want for fear of being seen?
     And I told them a story I heard on NPR of a former drug user that chose to coach a local little league baseball team because by helping, getting to know, and befriending little kids he knew he'd never go back to doing drugs again. “How pathetic would that be, a big forty year old guy like me sneaking around in back alleys and ducking around corners to avoid being seen by a seven year old kid? I'd never allow myself to fall that low,” he said. Good for him, I said, that he had the courage to do what he had to to stay clean.
     Doctor Canivet in the novel Madame Bovary, called in to help fix a botched operation, strides in assured in the knowledge that his conduct has always been wholly irreproachable. That passage struck me. I have relatives like that—humble straight-talkers always out for the good of others. And to the contrary I've know hangdogs who show guilt in their every step. And others still who flaunt their selfish, hurtful intentions and ways. Not that a person can be judged by appearances alone or that anyone is perfect, but that passage made me evaluate which group I wished to belong to. And which group I'd like my kids and family to belong to.
     Although I'm guilty of countless sins and shameful deeds, I nevertheless strive to care and hold onto truth and hope. Benefits have included an easier conscience, freedom to be myself, and good nights' sleeps. I can't imagine living the life of the sell-out narrator in my poem.

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