I believe in Synchronicity. So it is not surprisingly to me that I was introduced to the work of Susan Cain and Brené Brown in the same week. I mentioned in a previous post that I have recently finished reading Cain’s “Quiet,” and while I’m just getting ready to begin reading one of Brown’s books, I’ve been watching and re-watching her TED talks and other YouTube videos, and think I have a good sense of at least her main points related to moving beyond shame and daring greatly to live authentically and wholeheartedly.
Although the way these researchers state their points is new to me, the concepts underlying them are not. My father – who will turn 80 this year – began laying the foundation for this type of living on the day I was born. He calls it living with Integrity.
For much of his early life, Dad expected to be a theologian. But then, his first semester in college, he took an economics class and found his “true North” and began a long and prosperous career in international finance that would take him far and wide. His notions of living with Integrity derive from the field of ethics (not to mention a long line of New England Congregationalists) and center on being unfailingly honest, always doing what he knows in his heart to be the right thing, and – when he isn’t able to live up to those ideals, whenever possible righting any wrongs. He has always cautioned me, “at the end of the day, it will be just you and the mirror” and, “if you have a clear conscience, you can sleep peacefully.”
I studied psychology, so my spin on Integrity developed a bit differently, but it takes me to the same place. When I think of Integrity, I think of inner wholeness, of living in accord with what I believe to be good and true. When I first encountered Erik Erikson’s stage theory of psychosocial development, his final stage, “integrity vs despair,” immediately and forcefully resonated with me. If I am fortunate enough to live a long life and be aware at the end of it, above all I want to be able to answer the question, “Has my life been meaningful and true?” with an unequivocal YES!
It hasn’t made me popular. And I can’t say I’ve always managed to avoid shame. Brown is right – living authentically requires courage. Overcoming the “I’m not worthy; I’m not ____ enough” is a constant battle. It also requires perseverance and the ability to get up again after a fall.
But I believe it is worth it. The beat of the drummer that I walk to is not infrequently at a pace that is not of the masses. But it has brought me some precious, wholehearted relationships that I treasure and that bring me great joy. And I sleep very well.