The Soul of Integrity

“I cannot find language of sufficient energy to convey my sense of the sacredness of private integrity.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last night before I went to bed I was zipping through my Facebook feed when I caught sight of a meme that triggered an intuitive hit. I read it but something was off about it. It was the usual snarky meme of some political nature regarding the Mega March in DC a few days back. With just a few minutes of basic research on google, I determined the statement was inaccurate. In effect, I caught about three lies in one short sentence.

The actual contents themselves are of little consequence overall but the glaring fact that the whole thing was a lie stuck with me. It seems to me we are caught in the World Wide Web of deceit; the Internet of Lies; a Forum of Falsehoods.

Considering the present political climate such things are not surprising anymore and sadly, are more or less, expected. And yet, the idea that lies can be told so boldly with no remorse or consequences, underscores the consummate lack of integrity that is now eviscerating the very soul of a nation, a people, and a civilization.

The sacrifice of Integrity for a cheap political shot may seem on the surface of little consequence but ultimately does irreparable harm to the soul, the spirit, the heart, and the conscious. When we lie to ourselves and others some deep part of us begins to rot from within.

I remember in Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien the characters of the nine Kings who took the Rings of Power from Sauron and eventually became Wraiths. Here is a mythological definition of a wraith:

“Wraiths are soulless creatures and only feel devastating emotions like hatred and despair. They are a type of ghost, but can also be considered to be a type of demon. Though there are instances that wraiths can be considered ‘good’ most wraiths are inherently evil”.

When one abandons their integrity for power, the wraithing process begins. Little by little, lie after lie, each deceit chips away at the soul, darkens the Spirit, breaks the heart, and burdens the conscience. Eventually, the soul flees in despair in order to protect itself, leaving behind an empty shell; a dead man walking.

This isn’t just about the present political upheaval but about the pervasiveness in everything: the YouTube influencers that never leave their backyard but tell you they are hiking Denali or at the beach in Cancun; the folks who try to sell you the next diet miracle, or vitamin supplement that will guarantee health and vitality; the fashion catalogs that sell cheap knock-offs of low quality.

On it goes, hucksters and suckers, trading lies for money, power, status, attention, followers, But such desires and pursuits never fill the void when the soul flees, the spirit dies, the heart goes cold, and the conscious succumbs to possession.

The loss of integrity makes one untrustworthy even to themselves. What pride they may have or feel is false pride, a projected phony persona; in effect, an illusion. There is nothing of substance behind the mask; nothing worth cultivating.

Later in life, when evil people grow old, they try to make up for all their misdeeds by becoming generous. They form charities, foundations, and trusts; they seek repentance but it never comes. The taint of the loss of integrity never leaves. It’s too little way too late. The stench of inner rot pervades clinging like the smell of death. No one mourns their passing. We are just glad they left.

The World suffers not from inequity but from the loss of integrity. Inequity is caused by such a loss. We swim in a sea of lies. To be able to maintain one’s integrity is an act of courage, character, and power in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. It is a value beyond measure and worth the price of alienation and scorn, for your very soul is at stake.

Photo by Tomas Williams from Pexels

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