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.