We are human. We have been given free-will, the ability to make choices and to act with reasoned judgment. While our freedom will always be limited by circumstances, our choices are what define our character and identity. Without freedom of choice there can be no morality. And the choices we make, whether thoughtful or thoughtless, determine our behavior and demonstrate our integrity.
Self-confidence in our personal integrity is of paramount importance for everyone, and this can be disturbed by life’s many challenges. It is often impossible to avoid the tests life throws at us, but it can be helpful to recognize the potentially positive way such disruptions can lead to personal maturity.
Responding constructively to a crisis can be very difficult. Crises challenge our personal sense of integrity. We all want to have confidence in our own integrity. But what is the basis for personal integrity?
Upon what foundation do we ground our sense of integrity?
I suggest that ones’ feelings of integrity rest upon our understanding of the underlying reality of things, whether or not our perceptions are accurate.
Self-confidence depends on our beliefs about the way things are supposed to be. When we feel aligned with reality as we understand it—with truth as we know it—we experience a sense of moral soundness.
But this begs a question: As individual persons whose perceptions of reality differ from one another—sometimes substantially—how can we be sure of moral integrity?
Should we align our thinking with that of other people? Can we rely on someone else’s assertions about truth? Or should we investigate truth ourselves—independently?
Do we have the maturity to see with our own eyes and think with our own minds? I hope we will recognize the importance of an independent attitude, as we attempt to keep our balance amidst the uncertainties and challenges of a disrupted world.
We are members of family and community. As caring people, our choices are influenced by a sense of responsibility to and for others.
Surely we know that integrity—and freedom—are impossible without responsibility. We cannot walk away from a crisis or avoid the necessities of material circumstances.
Our personal lives are embedded in a social context. And we are all suffering from a damaged social order. So, my question to you concerns our ability to see where things are headed.
Do we recognize that the “American idea”, and the fragile order that generations of Americans have toiled to build, will be impossible to reconstruct if it is torn down?
Constructive change depends on an orderly process: Respectful dialogue and consultation will allow the investigation of creative ideas and genuine concerns.
America depends now on cool heads and a concern for authentic liberty. These are the foundations of integrity.
With steadfast patience and determination, a damaged civilization can be renegotiated, reconstructed, healed. But a civilization reduced to disintegration and chaos will not recover.
Those who think they can gain their ends by means of violence have a hard lesson awaiting them.
It was Hayek who said, “the principle that the ends justify the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals.”
Ayn Rand drove the point home emphatically in her own indomitable style: “An attempt to achieve the good by force is like an attempt to provide a man with a picture gallery at the price of cutting out his eyes.”
Strength of character is not found by going with the crowd. It is only in meeting tests and difficulties that identity comes into focus.
Freedom depends upon our ability to think clearly and to recognize the true basis for moral integrity. Especially when the going gets tough.
To be both free and responsible we must be autonomous individuals first, whole and complete in ourselves. Only then can we actualize our integrity as compassionate citizens in the real world.
You may look for the next post on or about March 31.