Lying to oneself damages the integrity of the whole self. Individuals can successfully navigate the complexity of life’s competing “values” through careful attention to the presence of harmony or conflict and contradiction among the four branches of self: intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical. Utilizing these checks and balances in the context of the whole self within the greater whole of society and environment opens the door to universal truth.
What is Integrity?
Integrity is “an undivided or unbroken completeness” and “moral soundness” (Word Net Web). The individual has four areas of need: spiritual need to connect to something higher than self, intellectual need to understand self and environment, physical needs of protection, sustenance, and procreation, and the emotional need to love and be loved.
To achieve an unbroken completeness of self all these needs must be met without contradicting each other. The way to determine moral soundness is to honestly note conflicting need satisfaction. Physical desires toward self-gratification are often in conflict with spiritual needs to help others and commune with a higher power. Physical desires must be kept in check with an understanding of genuine physical necessity (as opposed to want or desire) to achieve balance.
Convincingly lying to oneself requires complex alterations of belief patterns, intellectual justification or exception, behavioral masking, and emotional suppression or exaggeration to the hurt of the whole self. Maintaining integrity, on the other hand, requires emotional, spiritual, and intellectual honesty in the context of physical necessity. Integrity is the key to true happiness and satisfaction.
Affirmation of Truth
Integrity includes a commitment to discovering universal truth; not only acting to the best of your knowledge, but increasing your knowledge so you can become your best. Acknowledging the possibility of the existence of universal truth is the beginning of that quest. Evaluating knowledge, sources, and people then experimenting on the information or conclusions affirms truth.
Experimentation must include the whole self. First intellectual study and reason must be applied. Then revelation through meditation and/or prayer must spiritually be sought from the author of universal truth (God, the Universe itself, whatever). Then when all other tests have passed, physical action must be observed and evaluated for the value of its consequences. When done in this order, error and harm are minimized. This method fulfils Hume’s concept (1854) of Utility. He states, “The utility resulting from the social virtues forms, at least, a part of [human] merit” and is one source of universal approbation and regard. “Concerning the bounds of duty, the question cannot, by any means, be decided with greater certainty than by ascertaining, on any side, the true interests of mankind."
However, utility is not the sole determinant. “Reason and sentiment concur in almost all determinations and conclusions”…That which renders morality an active principle with virtue as happiness and vice as misery “depends on some internal sense or feeling which nature has made universal in the whole species.” Hume asserts, however, that discernment of sentiment is enhanced by reason.
further assert that revelation is the spiritual manifestation of truth via internal sensory experience, such as feelings of profound peace, bursts of intelligence, excited resolution, or a humble sense of conviction. These experiences are often described in terms of sentiment and emotion. However, they are distinct from human emotion in that they originate outside of self and can most accurately be called sensibilities of conscience.
Honesty is Necessary and Paramount
These sensibilities are universal to the human species, but are easily altered by rationalization and self-centered gratification. For this reason truth is only acquired by acknowledging sensibilities of conscience with integrity.
There can be no success in reconciling disparate needs and desires within self or within community and ecology without a willingness to admit wrongdoing and a desire to change negative character traits or actions. Shawn Floyd noted this difficulty in discussion of Aquinas’ moral philosophy (2006).
"Poor upbringing and the prejudices of society can further undermine a proper view of what human fulfillment consists in. Whether we can make competent judgments about what will contribute to our proper fulfillment depends on whether we have the requisite intellectual and moral virtues. Without those virtues, our intellectual and moral deficiencies will forestall our rational perfection and the attainment of our final end."
The discomfort of change and the stinging admission of error prevent many from honest self-evaluation. Rather than achieve genuine happiness, it is common among humans to simply seek temporary relief from discomfort through avoidance (via substance use, seeking pleasure, busy but empty ambition, manipulating or persuading others to share altered view of wrongdoing, etc).
The Greater Whole
Satisfying spiritual, emotional, and intellectual needs connects us to the world outside of self. When you focus on self-gratification you do not give others within your influence or responsibility the emotional concern they need. They become resistant to or resentful of giving you the concern which you need. Relationships contract, increasing self-centeredness. Now, two parts of the whole are damaged. Conversely, when you give constant material, emotional, and intellectual support to others without giving essential sustenance to self you minimize personal capacity for continued support of others. For example, one who has not acquired knowledge cannot teach. One cannot give what one does not have.
Beyond individual needs, there are ecological and societal needs. Ecological needs are prudent usage, cyclic change, and restoration when necessary. Humans are an integral part of nature with the power to dramatically change it and utilize it. We have an intellectual need to understand the elements and processes of nature. This knowledge not only allow us to more effectively utilize those elements and processes for our physical benefit (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) but it also gives the satisfaction of knowledge and understanding for its own sake. Prudent usage allows continued study and preservation for further use. Nature operates on cyclic change. When humans damage those natural cycles and balances it is necessary to restore them to the best of our human ability. Otherwise, we inhibit nature’s ability to provide us with resources to meet our needs. Systemic interdependence requires wholeness.
Societal needs are to pool information, skills, and labor for increased effectiveness within the system and establish order for the protection and sustenance of the whole. Society must mediate between self and nature to ethically balance usage of human and natural resources. All of these elements constitute the whole.
Hierarchy of Wholeness
Human dignity is paramount in all ethical decisions. Integrity requires that one individual recognize his own value as being equal to the value of all other human beings. To minimize the value of others is to minimize the value of self. Therefore one standard should be able to be applied to all people. This is an expression of Kant’s (1785) assertion that the way to judge moral issues via categorical imperative is to “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” and secondly to “Act that you use humanity [self or others]…always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.” These two rules preserve human dignity and establish priorities. Kant discussed man’s tendency to make exception to absolute law. To act in integrity is to minimize exception. This increases the likelihood of non-contradicting satisfaction.
Wholeness requires that if one part is harmed, the whole is harmed. If one part is causing harm it must be suppressed for the benefit of the whole. Those acts which simultaneously improve happiness for self, others, and harmony with natural laws and entities are imperative. Contradictions must be resolved in the context of a prioritized whole.
Harmonizing Truth Via Freedom
There are pitfalls of human error when people are given freedom to test and explore the world of truth and morality. However, it is essential for people to have the opportunity to make and learn from those mistakes because the path to eternal, unchanging truth is uniquely personal. The “enlightened” cannot transfer their experience to others. They can only share wisdom and insight hoping to inspire others onto the path of discovery. But even those who follow a particular “prophet” will learn bits of truth in different ways from those they follow.
Finding truth is a process of progressive discovery. Only by free and open discussion and association with other people can varying threads of the tapestry be woven together in the beautiful and intricate work which is all things true.
As stated the moral code is universal and can be discovered by all. Differences occur because clear standards and methods of discovery have not been widely distributed and are countered by contrary philosophies. However, differences in moral perspective must be resolved on an individual basis by free discourse and exercise of conscience. Coercion contradicts unity. Ethical progress will be slow, but possible as those with differing ethical standards are allowed to share analysis and reasoning with the goal of understanding absolute truth. Cultural contradiction must be resolved by individual conscience through free association with religions, organizations, and schools of thought. There must also be freedom to share and disseminate information and ideals. Ideological conflicts are likely to exist in perpetuity. However, it is in the common ground across all cultures and religions that we can be confident that we have found something universal and worth holding on to throughout the generations. Unfortunately for human peace, each new generation must renew the discovery process and make their own mistakes. Such is, however necessary. Good parents and teachers are the only hope, but provide no guarantee.
Wholeness of personal being in the context of interdependent environmental constituents is integrity. Only by honestly evaluating those relationships of personal need can we balance and subject desires to the greatest good. The greatest good is our complete satisfaction and happiness in this life within our associations and amongst our surroundings, as well as within ourselves. It may well be that the achievement of this balance will secure divine approbation, earning post-mortal rewards. If not, we will still attain peace and satisfaction in this life, which may be reward enough. The rest is delicious gravy.
Floyd, Shawn (May 23, 2006) Thomas Aquinas: Moral Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.iep.utm.edu/aq-moral/#H4
Hume, David (1854). Of the General Principles of Morals. The Philosophical Works of David Hume 229-335. Little Brown and Company 1854: Boston.
, Immanuel (1785) Fundamentals of the Metaphysics of Morals. Translated by T.K. Abbott.