My dear friends, what do we think is “the bottom line”? Do we imagine that everything will work out in the end, and that we simply need the right leadership to make things right? Do we imagine that someone other than ourselves should deal with this multitude of crises—should come to our rescue and take care of us?
What is our personal role and responsibility? How can we respond effectively?
The wreckage we face in this day can easily inspire feelings of helplessness. We don’t know what to do or where to start. And being overly reactive can just make things worse.
It’s easier to see what needs to be done for our families or in our communities, where the needs are practical.
I want to avoid preaching. That’s not my place. But I’d like to suggest that finding our way forward in this time of hardship and testing will depend first on our personal integrity and self-confidence.
What kind of persons are we? Who do we want to be?
Can we see how important it can be in a time such as this to have our feet planted firmly on the ground?
How can one think clearly in the confusion of a disrupted society? Will we ever find constancy or assurance in partisan politics?
In my view, gaining balance in our lives depends on the foundation we build within ourselves. And this foundation is called integrity.
What is integrity? How is it created?
I will share a secret with you. The foundation of all things in the human world is trust. This is the secret in personal relationships, in communities, and in nations.
Rebuilding damaged trust takes time and constancy. And its’ first requirement is truthfulness.
All of trusts’ necessities begin with truthfulness: honesty, dependability, trustworthiness.
Where do we begin?
The pathway to trust might seem simplistic, but this is because its’ requirements are so basic.
We may think it a hopeless endeavor, but I am not addressing hardened attitudes and closed minds. I am talking to you, dear reader.
First, kind words and friendliness can open doors and penetrate hearts. Being the first to listen can make all the difference. Even the most stubborn attitudes can be penetrated with generosity of spirit, however long it may take.
If others are not ready to listen or respond, leave them to themselves. We must always move on. Yet, there can be no integrity in isolation.
Integrity lives and grows in our engagement with people. It is the product of thoughtful relationships. It requires inquisitive interest.
The greatest tests on this rocky road are steadfast grace, commitment and consistency.
We are called to seek our common humanity, but no one is asking us to agree on everything. We can keep our views and our values. Something greater needed.
The integrity that takes root in relationships soon spreads to implant itself in the character of a family, community or nation.
This is not easy, but it is real. It takes time. And the struggle remains deeply personal.
Even if we are fortunate to have a religious community, our integrity remains very much our own. Guidance can be a great help. True friendship is a blessing. But life’s struggle is always personal.
And in the end, the wisdom we gain can only be our own.
We can protest against injustice or politics or misbehavior. We can blame people or institutions, social degradation or human history. But we control just one thing, and that is ourselves.
Strangely enough, it is actually this one thing—personal integrity—upon which the integrity of nations and societies depend.
Nothing in business, politics, or society will matter until we get this right. And it can only be made right by each and every one of us, deep within ourselves.
You may watch for the next post on or about 14 September.
Interested readers can find an introduction to the coming book and several chapters (in draft) linked at the top of the homepage