“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity” — W. Clement Stone
The skeleton keys in my photo neighbours my desk. They say Faith, Vision, and Wisdom which reminds me of keys to living a life full of beautiful integrity.
This quote fits so well with my post last week about saying “yes” to the things that align with my desires and goals and learning to use that very tough little two-letter word “no” at the correct moments as well. I never thought of needing courage to say no to things that seem good but are not right for me at that moment, but at times I need to focus my energy or use my God-given gifts elsewhere.
This flows well into having the courage to face the truth. Living with integrity means I need to be honest. I need to face the truth. The truth is I am not superwoman. I am not perfect nor is anyone else, therefore I must treat others and myself with compassion and grace as we face the truth about ourselves.
I need to do the right thing because it is right, not because of who might or might not be watching, not for the acknowledgment or applause of others but because it aligns with my values. Living with integrity means living what I say I believe, treating others with respect, compassion and honesty. To me, it means being reliable, approachable, sincere and authentic. What you see is what you get. There is no hidden agenda in being nice to someone.
I have had the great privilege of having people in my life who have demonstrated those keys to integrity in their actions even more than their words. What they said and did always matched up. Of course, they were imperfect like I am or you are, but they lived life with decency, fairness, truthfulness and authenticity all wrapped up in kindness and compassion for others.
One amazing example was my grandfather. This quiet man of faith never preached a sermon, never led any organization or became a successful businessman who others would recognize the name of. Yet he loved his family in good times, hard times and ones that might make someone bow to the pressure of giving up, renouncing his faith or walking away. He brought home his young wife after a stroke at thirty-six years old and their newborn daughter. Mom was as helpless as the baby. They had other children at home aged four, eight and almost eleven. They had lost two children. Life in the dirty thirties tested everyone. I never knew him to say an unkind word or bemoan the losses of his life. He stood by his wife and family, his church family and God, taking life one day at a time. I received words of love and forgiveness from him at a time in my life I needed them desperately. I saw the compassion in his eyes that matched the words he said.
My mother was that almost eleven-year-old daughter who now had to help her mother with making meals, doing laundry, washing diapers and helping raise her little sisters while still going to school. Her father never wanted her education to suffer because of the extra workload at home and did what he could to make sure she had opportunities. She became a woman of integrity. Her actions matched her words no matter who was or was not around. I never heard bitter words about her tough childhood. I watched her continue to love and care for her sisters all her life. She kept her word and commitments. She never gave up learning and trying new things. She showed in tangible ways her creativity, love, and compassion for family, friends, neighbours and others she met. She did what was right because she felt it was the right thing to do.
There are so many other examples I thought about people in my life who demonstrated what it meant to live with integrity, and for that, I am more grateful than words can express. Now I long for my life to show integrity to others too, not for accolades but because it is who I want to be whether or not someone is watching. One thing I realized this week is to live a life of honesty, with the courage to do the right thing and offer compassion to others means I need to offer it to myself as well.
Offering myself compassion and forgiveness is harder than extending it to others. Yet I must, which includes discerning what needs a “yes” answer and what to say “no” to even if it sounds like a good thing. I must forgive myself when I mess up or can’t accomplish everything I had on my to-do list that week. It is okay to take one step at a time and those might be baby ones at that. This involves facing the truth as I evaluate where I need to be at that moment in my life. For me, it means hanging tightly to my faith and living it out in everyday life.