Testing, Testing, 1-2-3
Or, Self-Help Can Suck It
If you come here for self-help, friends, I’m going to tell you right now, you are in the wrong place. Self-help— as a genre, an industry, and a concept is a manifestation of individualism, and I am not here to play those games.
Are self-investigation, self-awareness, and self-development necessary parts of the discernment process that is essential to showing up in the world with integrity? Yes. Self-integration and the authenticity that follows are the beginning, but they are far from the end.
Remember, integrity is relational. It is about how we bump up against each other as we move through the world together. It is the habit and discipline through which we navigate our inherent needs for autonomy and connection, so that we may exist honestly, fully present, and with conviction in relationship with our family, our community, and our society.
A monk may live in simple harmony with his environment, alone on a hillside. He may be peaceful, disciplined, and seemingly fully integrated inside himself and with his beliefs. But let him come off that hillside and try to navigate his relationships with his family. Then we shall see the depth and quality of his integrity.
Most of us aren’t going to live our lives on a peaceful, remote hillside meditating, and we’re not meant to. We are a social species. Relationships are a necessity of survival and an essential aspect of our journey to become whole people.
There are those who teach that integrity is simply coming into full alignment with the “truth” of yourself, rejecting the shoulds and the have-tos of society in order to assert your unique individuality. Do this, they teach, and everything in your life will magically work. All of your suffering will disappear.
In the vast field between you and “society” are a whole bunch of people, my dear ones. Friends and family and children and fellow humans who are also trying to figure out how to be here, and be themselves. Your work to show up with integrity is for you, but it is also for them. The world is not just about you.
We are here to build community, to find family, to take care of each other, and to do that in the way that only we can because of our particular gifts. The gifts we were offered for this lifetime aren’t just for us. We are simply the doorway through which they enter the world for the benefit of everyone.
So, let’s talk about honesty for a moment, which many folks equate with integrity. That’s simplistic and wrong. Is it possible to be honest without considering the other person’s humanity? Absolutely. That honesty has no integrity, because integrity demands wholeness. For everybody.
Is it possible to be honest without knowing the whole truth? That’s kind of the definition of life, right there, isn’t it? We never know everything. We’re always in the process of discovering our “Truth”.
That’s where testing comes in.
As many of you know, I’m a Quaker. Have been all my life. As a Quaker, I believe there is that of God in every person. Every person has a spark of divinity in them. Life, then, has a dual, divine purpose. To bring that of God within me into the world, and to seek that of God within all other people. That connection is the genesis of all good things.
But discerning what that spark of Truth within me is, and letting it shine through me into my relationships and the world so that the good things can happen? That takes effort and courage. Because my light has to filter through the cloudy window that is my ego, my trauma, and all of the emotional response patterning that I have accumulated through surviving a world with other imperfect, damaged people in it.
I cannot discern that Truth by myself. I have to be brave enough to honestly share with the people that love me what little light and truth I can manage to see through the dirty window of myself that I’m constantly cleaning, understanding that they may be able to see where I missed a spot. I have to submit to their loving scrutiny, their testing of my sense of the truth of myself.
Integrity, by definition, entails being willing to risk things in order to do what you know is right. If you’re not being honest with the people that love you, you’re not risking anything. There’s no integrity in that. But if you’re deciding you know the Truth, and the only relationships that can survive that truth are with people who will agree with you uncritically? There’s no risk, and therefore no integrity, in that either.
Showing up in the world honestly is vulnerable. It’s scary, and sometimes painful. It can create conflict, and none of us enjoys conflict. That’s why therapy exists, to provide a practice ground for our limited understanding of the truth of ourselves to begin to leak out in order to be scrutinized and experienced, where “disagreement” is carefully controlled. I highly recommend it.
But all the therapy in the world is no substitute for the work of showing up with integrity with the people who love us. Those who aren’t getting paid to make the perfect, safe container for us to share ourselves without having to consider the other person or navigate our own dirty window. There will be conflict, vulnerability, and testing in this work. There will be love, hard-won and deep.
That’s integrity— taking the risk to be ourselves and to do what we know is right in all our relationships with other people. To love ourselves, other people, and the world with everything we have and are. It is not for the weak, the cowardly, or the self-involved. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.
Thank you for supporting my work, dear ones. I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of you. Please continue to help this project, and me, grow by sharing with your networks, liking (click the heart!), commenting, and subscribing in the box below if you haven’t yet. Much love, always. XO, Asha