My values # 5 Integrity

Integrity

In my reflection on values of importance to me, it is fitting I include a post on integrity, perhaps the most righteous virtue to aspire to. Integrity is consistency of behaviour based on values or beliefs. The emphasis is an honest adherence to a value or belief; rather than any specific value or belief in the first place. The truth is you can make up your own code and not all are admirable. If you really want to live righteously and fairly, then ultimately your own code should include moral and ethical concepts.

Some of the beliefs I personally aspire to are: do no harm, compassion, fairness, fidelity, honesty, privacy, freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, proactive civil society, utilitarianism, use of science creatively not destructively, creativity, and pacifism.

However, integrity is more than beliefs. Integrity is acting on your beliefs, consistently.

One of my greatest beliefs is being part of a “proactive civil society”. I strongly believe I should contribute to society – give back. More than that, if there is something ‘not quite right’, then I should speak out or act to change it.

As a couple, my husband and I lived by that code. We were active on community issues. We acted in tandem, with me being the quiet yet determined researcher, the gatherer of information, the planner of strategies. My husband was the negotiator, the ‘voice’, drawing in supporters and believers by his gregarious nature. We believed in measured, well-delivered strategies by negotiation and community participation. One thing was for certain though, if it was an issue we believed in, we did not let it go. One could even say that on some social justice and environmental issues, we were a “formidable force”.

All of this belief system crumbled and was lost on his leaving me. Part of my deepest despair was trying to come to terms with ‘what did that all mean?’ I thought that it had been our strong family unit and us as a steadfast strong-minded couple that gave me the energy to speak out, the courage to make a difference. I thought that is was our professed family values based on fairness, dependability, tolerance, keeping promises, not lying or deceiving, and respecting others; that gave me my warm inner core of strength. So strong I was able to give back. So strong I was able to stand up for my beliefs, for people’s rights.

What happened to those values, those virtues, those morals, those beliefs that we stood for together? When he walked away from me, from our partnership, did he walk away from that belief system as well? I was the believer, the unshakable one. He was the voice. Was it all an illusion? Did I only act the way I did, did I only believe what I thought I believed, because he was beside me?

His leaving me rocked my belief system to its core.

If I truly believe (as I thought I did) that one should absolutely contribute as much as one can to society, to right the wrongs, to stand up and speak out; and if I truly believe (as I thought I did) that I have so much still to contribute; then if I have now been crumpled down to a dithering mess, unable to even think straight long enough to remember to take my green bags to the shop, let alone try and save the planet; then what has happened to my own beliefs; what has happened to my own integrity?

Over the past months, I have read other people grapple with this same issue. ‘What is wrong with me?’ they ask, as they care for sick loved ones, as they recover from surgery, as they grieve the loss of friends or family. I understand their plight and am able to assure them “you are going through a difficult time… be kind to yourself”. I am less kind to myself. I feel I have lost my own inner compass.

It is time to reassess my own direction.

In order to do that, I need to accept my true self for who I am now as a single person, my strengths and my limitations. I need to affirm my own individual beliefs and choose a level at which I am prepared and capable of acting on. I need to accept that until I have regained my inner strength, I may not be able to make a difference globally, nationally or even at a community level. However, l can still act by my own code within my own home, within my workplace and with my friends, family and acquaintances. Then, if I keep acting within my own belief system, I may say once again that I am living with integrity.

“In matters of principle stand like a rock” Thomas Jefferson

Circle of life

Thirty four years after missing out on seeing him at his ‘last ever performance’ at Wembley Stadium in London, I saw Elton John perform Tuesday evening in little Tasmania, Australia. This was a day I simply sat back and enjoyed the moment of watching and hearing a fantastic performance from an incredible artist who started playing the piano at 3 years of age.

This was his closing song and I feel one of his best. it holds so much meaning.

“Circle Of Life”
Music Elton John
Lyrics Tim Rice

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give.
.
In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life.
.
Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars
.
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
.
In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life.
.
.

🙂

.

My values # 4 Compassion

Kindness – Care – Compassion

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again”  William Penn

I spoke earlier about the value of feeling empathy for others. Kindness, care and compassion converts this feeling into action. Kindness is being friendly generous and considerate. Caring is looking after people. Compassion is having a genuine feeling of sorrow for a person who has suffered a misfortune coupled with a genuine desire to alleviate the suffering.

I grew up with kindness, care and compassion. I grew up knowing this was what you gave other people. My grandmother always showed compassion and care for sick people, immobile people, people doing it tough. My mother was the rock solid support for family and others, and compassionate towards charity recipients at her church by assisting them, or finding additional services for their needs. My father was a kind considerate person to everyone he knew. I learned this way of life and have always endeavoured to act with kindness, care and compassion towards all people.

With my husband leaving me, suddenly my world was turned upside down. When I was in my own world of comfort and security, it was easy to step up and help others in need. In my new world of pain and despair, I fell into self-indulgent pity. I was in a catch 22 situation. I felt that I could not become my previous self and care for others until I was strong again,  yet I was too ingrained in my thinking of putting others first to put myself first long enough to allow myself time to heal.

I have since grown to understand that these actions of kindness, care and compassion are things we all need, even me.

I discovered kindness as a gift to me by the random act of a stranger in the supermarket. I now have a greater understanding as to how much small acts of kindness can mean. More than ever, I endeavour to pass kindness on to everyone I meet.

Compassion is somewhat harder. For a long time, I felt that I was not strong enough in myself to show compassion and help others in need.

Then I found self-compassion. Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same care and kindness as you would treat someone else in need. I started becoming empathetic towards myself and reached an understanding of my own situation. I acknowledged that I was indeed suffering. I stopped being hard on myself. I started to be kind to myself. I started to care for myself, look after myself. Rather than being self-critical and thinking I should be doing better, rather than wishing ‘it’ hadn’t happened, denying it; I started to accept the pain and suffering that I was going though. I started treating myself with the same kindness that I would show someone else in my situation. I started feeling compassion for myself.

As I did this, a strange thing happened. I started to compare myself to others and I began to relate more to others. I looked around me and saw that my suffering was not unusual. I am not alone. I am no better or worse off than any other. I began to realise that what I was going through is all part of our human experience. We all go through troughs in our lives. It is not something that only I have to endure.

Reaching this state of ‘self-compassion’ has really helped me and, while I know that I cannot feel compassion for myself without truly feeling my own pain or truly observing my own negative thoughts and feelings, I strive to not be sucked down by too much gloominess by balancing this with a continual forward positive vision.

A few days ago, my daughter suggested that I get myself involved in a humanitarian project, a side of me that had become lost. I said to her that I was not strong enough. She told me that it was that that makes me strong. I thought of all that mother Theresa achieved in the world through compassion and decided that I was not that strong. Then I thought of my staff. Amongst them I know of five who are currently struggling, anxious or in less-than desirable situations. Five people I could show compassion towards, five people who I could help. I am not strong enough to heal the world. However, I could begin here, and I could begin today.

Perhaps my compassion for others is not lost, I just need to look for it a little closer to home.

“Helping others is what helps you get stronger. Do it before you feel strong. It makes you step outside yourself and move forward because you are helping others.”  Quote by my daughter.

Interlude – it’s not fair but I’m Ok

It seems as if, no matter how positive you try and be, sometimes in life you take five steps forward then something happens and it is like being hit over the head again, and you plunge downwards again. Over the past week, I have been trying to get our agreed settlement to line up with the divorce legal process. This has not been all that easy due some complexities in our financial affairs. It has taken four days and two nights out of my life this week accompanied by much distress.

Meanwhile my husband is enjoying himself somewhere in the south of France.

Rather than tarnish this blog with a pronounced “it’s not fair” attitude that I know gets one nowhere, I thought that I would point you to two people who describe my mood this week. Firstly; to another blogger who went through a temporary ‘rant‘ recently and has since recovered and continues her positive journey through life. It is great to know that I am not alone. Secondly; to this song below performed by Whitney Houston that says it all about being determined of making it on your own, despite it seeming unfair.

As for me; midweek I got up from the floor, dusted myself off, and did what had to be done by wading through the muddy puddle that appeared in the middle of my track. I figured that there is no point in trying to walk around it as there are cliffs on either side.

I am visiting my eldest son and family this weekend, and on Monday I will resume my onward journey. I am going to make it anyway. 🙂

“It’s not right, but it’s okay I’m gonna make it anyway”.  Whitney Houston

My values # 3 Dependable

“When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me”    Ben E. King

I have always considered myself to be reliable, dependable and trustworthy.

Through the turmoil of my life being turned upside down by my husband leaving me, my being reliable on everyday issues was truly tested. Being punctual, answering emails, paying bills on time, returning phone calls, having a neat and tidy house, keeping appointments, remembering birthdays ……. these slipped way down on my list of priorities as I battled with my grief. As I slowly emerged from the haze, however, some of the issues continued. It was as if I was questioning the merit of placing such importance on what I now deemed ‘trivial’ issues. It was as if I was saying to myself  – ‘You have lost trust, joy, your companion, your direction in life, your dreams for the future, your life’s work and your financial security. What does it matter if you are late? Who cares if you do not sweep the kitchen floor? Does it really matter if this year no-one gets Christmas cards?’ At the same time, I was concerned that I was losing part of myself, part of who I had been, part of my character and reputation.

Then I thought more in depth about the meaning of being reliable, trustworthy and dependable.

To me, being reliable is acting in a consistent way – predictably on time, neat, well-groomed, always keeping appointments – with the emphasis being on consistency rather than any particular admirable human trait. A car can be reliable. Someone may be reliable without necessarily being trustworthy or dependable.

A trustworthy person, on the other hand, will always keep confidences, will remain loyal and faithful and will keep promises. They will not lie, cheat, steal, or ever behave in an unscrupulous manner. They will always be honest and truthful.

Being dependable means showing up without being asked or reminded. You will just be there. You show up for work, social gatherings, your children’s events, your mother’s birthday. You will always do the right thing. A dependable person is reliable in mood and temperament. Not all over you one minute with affection and warmth; then cold, aloof and withdrawn the next. You know where you stand with them. A dependable person will express their emotions in a mature and healthy way, never belittle anyone, or gossip in an unkindly manner. A dependable person is a pillar of strength, someone others may lean on at a time of need. They listen with understanding to others’ concerns. They support others in grief. A dependable person does not collapse in a crisis. They understand that they cannot control events but they can alter their own responses to events. Where a situation may lead others into panic or disorder; they remain calm. When times get tough, they would never cut and run. A dependable person is unfaltering like a solid rock in their values and principles; steadfast in their beliefs. They will stand up and do what is right. They do not let circumstances dictate their behaviour. Instead their values, ethics, morals and sense of purpose drives them.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I was still living by these values. My reliability may have slipped on some trivial matters, but I have remained reliable “when it counts”. With absolute certainty I have remained trustworthy and above all I have remained dependable. I have always been and will always be there for my children, my family, my friends, my neighbours and my work colleagues. If any one of my loved ones was hurt or in crisis, I would drop everything and go to them as I have always done. I am still that “pillar of strength” – someone others may lean on at a time of need. Whilst taking much courage at times, I remain dependably calm and level-headed. I am unwavering in my core beliefs. My home remains a sanctuary of peace, comfort and relaxation.

I remain a rock of strength.