Integrity comes from the same root as the word “wholeness.” I once heard a friend of mine, a gay man who was closeted because he feared losing his job as a public school teacher, say, “I don’t want a double life. I think everyone deserves to have a single life.” For me, that is the definition of integrity–the ability to have a single, whole, integrated life–not having to pretend or hide any part of yourself. I think, down deep, we all yearn for that kind of integrity.
There are many forces in our lives that push us away from that kind of wholeness, but I think the most powerful one may be perfectionism. To be whole is not the same as to be perfect. It’s when we feel the pressure to be perfect instead of whole that we begin to try to hide parts of ourselves that don’t seem good enough. And the more we push things down, the more likely they are to resurface in dramatic ways. Psychologists can describe and predict this phenomena and yet, it still happens again.
People are unique and wonderful and one ideal of perfection just can’t hold us all and can’t hold us all the time. If youth is perfection, then we’re all destined to fail at it eventually–we all get older. If straightness is “right” and gayness is “wrong,” then we consign a good number of people to lives painfully hiding in the closet. If whiteness is seen as “normal” and blackness as a deviation, we end up in a world steeped in both subtle and obvious racism and prejudice.
The goal of Unitarian Universalism isn’t perfection. We don’t have to pass a doctrinal test to prove we believe all the right things. We don’t have to all dress alike or look alike or think alike to be a community. We don’t believe that the human race needs to achieve some kind of perfection. In fact, we’ve seen the horrors that come from that kind of thinking. Instead, we value wholeness. Be wholly who you are. Learn to love and value what makes you unique. Let go of perfectionism and replace it with a goal of wholeness–of integrity–that allows you to bring all of who you are to this community.
We say at Tree of Life that we are “Rooted in Love and Reaching for Justice”–both of those things are about integrity. To be loved is to be known and valued for who you are. And for justice to prevail, our human community must come to believe that all are welcome, all are needed for us to be whole. Love and justice are not two separate things, but like roots and branches, two important parts of one whole and healthy Tree of Life.
This month, be sure to check out some of the ways that you can explore your gifts and bring them to our community: