What if definitions for value-words, like Integrity, were simple? Not easy, just easy to understand. What if Integrity generally meant “an alignment of word and action?” However, while many of us are taught the importance of keeping one’s word (doing what I said I would do) and honest disclosure (saying/admitting what I have done), what if there is a third, even more important, skill to living out Integrity? A skill that addresses the question “What do I do when I fail?” called "How-to Return to Integrity."
In the Navy, the term for ships that maintain their purpose of keeping passengers dry is called “watertight integrity.” When no leaks exist, the promise is kept; any undesired leak, unchecked, could threaten the ship and represents a loss of watertight integrity. If humans refused to take repair or emergency equipment onto ships and only traveled on vessels guaranteed to never leak (think Titanic) there would be no ocean travel.
Sadly many men live under social rules that don’t align with the reality of being human, like: “just don’t fail,” “failure is not an option,” or “there is no failure when everyone wins.” The result of these expectations for men can lead them to believe any mistake is placed into some permanent record as a failure. From this perspective, even if the final outcome is successful, errors are corrected, and the mistake is fixed, the result is still counted as a failure. Is it any wonder why some men work so hard to hide or downplay failures?
Path to Freedom
With God there is another option to the Pass/Fail measure for success: Integrity.
In the real world, humans are not perfect. Rather than expecting people to be something ‘other’ than what they are, under the concept of Integrity the focus would be on creating a plan to repair, and mitigate damage from, failures that will happen.
This concept is NOT about enabling failure, it is about not allowing failure to define the outcome. It is still important to only commit to obligations one plans to fulfill, and honestly admit to things done in the past. This “Return to Integrity” skill takes into account the humanity of humans, and then provides a path to return to the freedom of a firm value-based foundation.
Imagine a man told to row a boat to the other side of the lake without experiencing any leaks. The Pass/Fail measure suggests that once a leak occurs the entire mission has failed, even if the man fixes the leak and makes it to the other side of the lake. Most would say that not fixing the leak and completing the trip would be irresponsible. The integrity measure would not count how many times he has failed, but that he achieved his committed goal (think Abraham Lincoln).
This concept is NOT about “ends justifying means,” perfection, or enabling “leaky” behaviors. It IS about taking action to seal life-leaks, and re-seal them until Integrity is regained. Failure is an option, being human can still bring powerful results! This Key Skill is How-To REGAIN Integrity.
A life focused on Integrity rises above mistakes, and makes every failure an opportunity for new success, even learning more than had one succeeded the first time. If a more human existence that doesn't excuse failure, but doesn't demand perfection either, sounds interesting to you...
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