Differentiation, Love, and Living with Integrity

Many people appear to think that living with integrity means living in alignment with their feelings. That if they feel a certain way about someone or something, then “integrity” requires that they act in a way that is in keeping with those feelings.

But that is not integrity (and it almost prohibits growth and psychological development). It is simply living on auto-pilot as a reactive, conditioned being; it is to be leading an unreflective, unexamined life.

True integrity is about living in alignment with one’s principles—with deeply held principles and ideals and beliefs that one has thought out and internalized. That is true integrity. It is not possible to live with integrity unless one is also a bit of a philosopher and self-psychologist (a lover of wisdom and a student of the psyche or mind and soul). And the more of a true philosopher and psychologist one is—the more a person is learning to lead a reflective and discerning and an examined life—then the greater one’s potential both for integrity and for real personal growth and deepening. In order for principles and ideals to be internalized, they need to be deeply thought through and deliberated over and wrestled with—and then fought for and acted on courageously and consistently (especially when it’s not convenient [there’s no right way to do the wrong thing, but there are plenty of competing easy ways to do it]). And such internalizing is part and parcel of a proactive and an examined life.

This also highlights a problem with language—with how the same word can be used by two people but mean something vastly different, depending on the level of differentiation (level of character development, emotional maturity, level of being, level of consciousness and self-awareness) of the user.

At lower levels of differentiation (where it’s difficult for a person to separate feelings from facts), integrity and “love” tend to mean one thing (love is a feeling), while at higher levels of differentiation (where life, including one’s reactions to it and one’s feelings about it and about others, are more examined, and examined with greater objectivity and clarity) integrity and “love” mean something quite different. As a person’s level of differentiation truly increases, then love becomes defined more in terms of one’s actions—in terms of acting as consistently as possible with generosity, gratitude, understanding, goodness, warmth, thought, deliberateness, courage, and even consistency itself.

And the more a person acts in this way (especially when it is inconvenient, difficult, et cetera), the more his or her level of differentiation increases.

And even a meager increase in one’s level of differentiation can have a substantial impact on the quality and health of one’s relationships. Leading a more truly examined and mindful life almost always has that effect.


About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Differentiation, Emotional Maturity, Love is Not a Feeling, M. Scott Peck, Martin Luther King Jr., Mental Health, Proactivity, Reactive, Real Love, Spiritual Growth, Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Road Less Traveled, Truth, Waking Up, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Differentiation, Love, and Living with Integrity

  1. This is a very interesting idea – I particularly like the idea of love as being rooted in individuality and differentiation. Thanks – this is giving me a lot of food for thought!

    • John says:

      Hello CreatingReciprocity,

      Thank you for reading and for commenting. And I’m glad this post provided you with food for thought–that’s one of the best types of food there is; and it’s why I write what I write, read what I read, and do much of what I do–I crave food for thought and intellectual stimulation.

      I’m glad this post provided some of that for you. 🙂

      And I’m firmly convinced of two things (okay, let’s be honest, probably many more than two things, lol; yet I still have very much a beginner’s mind)–that the capacity to Love genuinely is rooted in the ability to be a true friend both to ourselves and others and the world at large (and this capacity for friendship is not only based in compassion and “acceptance,” but in the virtues–in being courageous, persevering, discriminating, generous, etc.). There is much genuine self-development that is required if one is to be a TRUE friend to oneself and another/others–it means giving up / outgrowing a lot of our selfishness, pettiness, vices, dependencies, pathologies, fears, etc. Consider this story from the Buddhist scriptures . . .

      One day Ananda, who had been thinking deeply about things for a while, turned to the Buddha and exclaimed: “Lord, I’ve been thinking, spiritual friendship (noble companionship) is at least half of the spiritual life!”

      The Buddha replied: “Say not so, Ananda, say not so. Spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life!”
      (Samyutta Nikaya, Verse 2)

      I’m also convinced that the capacity to Love is a capability we all have, and thus as a capability or capacity it is something that has to be stoked and encouraged and practiced and weeded and pruned and grown.

      And I’m also convinced that becoming more Loving requires learning how to stand on our own more and more psychologically–i.e. learning how to self-soothe and self-regulate emotionally, learning how to control ourselves emotionally, learning how to depend less on others approval and more on the approval of our own (healthy) conscience.

      As we increase in these areas–these areas of nobility–so too we increase in our ability to love genuinely and our readiness to be a good partner and an asset to a relationship. 🙂

      Warmest regards, and thank you for commenting and reading!


  2. persuaded2go says:

    I find this fascinating…thank you. I’m going to post it on my blog, if that’s ok.

    • John says:

      You’re very welcome; and it’s more than okay for you to repost this! I’m glad you found it of interest.

      Kindest regards,


  3. Pingback: Love As Separation « creatingreciprocity

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