The process of recovery has several essential principles, for example – social support, respect, healthy lifestyle, emotional stability, etc. However, the less practical terms can sometimes seem mere ‘buzzwords’ and their ambiguity makes them difficult to trust them as guidelines. One of these terms, used in many self-improvement contexts, is ‘integrity’. We often assume that it is a synonym of ‘honesty’ but they differ. Honesty is telling tell the truth and being true, integrity is having strong moral principles, based on honesty, and following those principles consistently.
C.S. Lewis said that ‘Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching’; ie a form of rigorous moral honesty that one chooses to follow even when it is easier not to – and there may be no consequences.
It shouldn’t just be another recovery buzzword but a key concept that grounds and directs us every day, forming our belief system. In having integrity, when we make decisions outside that system, we know we will face the consequences. Having integrity may make recovery more challenging but it also becomes more effective.
The interconnectivity between honesty and integrity is particularly important when we interact with others. We should find ways to give and receive honest feedback from people by establishing the right level of trust with our support network. We should surround ourselves with individuals who will tell us if we are acting well or whether there is a better way to handle something.
Practise, practise, practise
Like most virtues, the more we rely on integrity in our everyday life the more established it becomes within us. Here are some practical suggestions on how to do it:
Keep your promises. Do what you say by keeping appointments with your family and friends, keeping up your fitness routine, healthy diet, etc. If you break a promise, apologise, and don’t let this become a pattern. Keep your promises to yourself too.
Say ‘No’ and become comfortable with it. No one can say yes to everything and always follow it through.
Think before you speak. Being non-judgemental is important for the people around us but especially for ourselves. Let us ask ourselves if our comment is at all helpful and dispassionate before uttering it.
Work on your communication skills. Reread that email or social network post before you send it and plan what to say in meetings and phone calls. Avoid speaking impulsively or ‘sugar-coating’ your responses. Ambiguous communication leads to unclear commitments and broken promises.
Assessing our actions. How do we know if we are acting with integrity? These questions form a ‘tool-kit’ to gauge our level of integrity when doing something:
- Does this conduct make me a better person?
- Am I taking full responsibility?
- Am I prepared to risk being wrong?
- How would I feel if someone I love did that?
- Am I leading by example?
Integrity means acting openly and not worrying about hiding anything. You will gain the trust of other people as a result, a crucial element in the recovery process. When you demonstrate integrity, you show everyone you can be trusted and respected. It’s a crucial step in your journey to recovery.