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Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Wednesday Within: Integrity

Dandylion-yellow-wind-11215-lHere's a little secret about me: if I announce I'm going to do something, at some point I am sure to rebel against myself and not do it.  Does anybody else have that?  What is that about?  You would think at this advanced age, I'd have figured it out and stopped doing it.

So all this is by way of saying that last week I didn't get around to writing a personal post.  (My idea around all this being that once a week I could give myself latitude to write about something beyond writing.) Well, come to think of it, I was on an airplane on the way home from Pasadena.  And it was so, so windy in Portland that the pilot made the stewardesses attendants sit down 45 minutes early and then the plane bumped and shook so much on the descent that everyone cheered when we landed, and so of course, after that I needed wine.  And after the wine, I was sleepy.  So there was no personal post. Which is different than just not doing it, though the result was the same.

On the other hand, I have sent out a newsletter every other week for 5 years now.  And this blog post is one of over 1,000 written across a 7+ year time span.   So I guess I am able to commit to a few things along the way.  And all this makes me think about integrity, which is not at all what I thought I would write about when I started this post, but here we are.


Years ago a friend of mine who I've since lost touch with, was going to come visit me here in Portland. I was so looking forward to his visit–I was volunteering at a writing festival and he was going to volunteer with me.  A fellow writer, he and I had enjoyed long phone conversations in which we critiqued each other's work and talked about the difficulties of getting to the page with our busy lives. I'd spent time with him at his home in Texas and I was really looking forward to him coming here. And then he and I had a conversation about integrity–personal integrity–and I said some high and mighty words about how important it is, particularly in regards to writing.  And a few days later he called me and said those words had really affected him and in order to hold to his integrity he was going to stay home and write.

I was really disappointed he didn't visit, and yet I had to applaud his decision to hold tight to his word and say home and write, because he was following his vow to finish his book.  (Which I don't think he ever did, by the way, but that's another story.)  And pondering his commitment to integrity also brings up a couple of my favorite stories of not having integrity.

Or Lack Thereof

A few years ago, I was connected with a potential ghost-writing client.  This woman owned a high-rise apartment in one of the biggest and most expensive cities in the world, as well as a home in a well-known luxury resort area.  Yet every time we talked, she told me she couldn't afford my rates and tried to talk my fees down.  But what really rankled was this: she had a huge online presence based on her supposedly deeply spiritual persona.  Her tweets talked about love and peace and serenity.  On the phone, she was anything but serene and peaceful. Every other word was a harsh swear word, or a complaint about somebody or something.  The gap between her public image and her private demeanor was startling.  I declined to work with her. (Her book did eventually come out, and I heard through the grapevine that it did not do well.  I always wondered if her lack of authenticity had something to do with that.)

And, in yet another example, last year a speaker came through our church.  (We have a fairly large congregation, so we get a lot of New Age types eager to speak to us.)  This woman was a dynamite speaker, who told of how she healed herself from addictions through her intense spiritual practices. After her talk, she sold her book in the lobby, and my husband and I were pressed into service to help her.  Now, I don't know about you but I like to think that deeply spiritual people are also kind and patient. But she was not.  She was cranky and rude when I didn't immediately grasp how to feed information into the Square register, and short and brusque the rest of the time.  She never once thanked us for your help or even deigned to smile.  Again, her public and personal personas were at odds with each other in a most jarring way.

And I think of these stories whenever I do something that is not within my own sense of integrity. Along with independence and a commitment to my family, integrity is one of my highest values.  So it is interesting to look at where I hold to it and where I fall down. I like to think that my public and private persona are one and the same, though I am likely much goofier with the people who know me well.  But the place I fail the most often is being in integrity to myself, and I would bet that I'm not alone in this. I'll minister to family, do things for friends, and finish my client work before I even open the file for my current WIP.   I'll swear up and down I'm done with sugar, and a few hours later, I'm eating a candybar leftover from Halloween.  I'd be willing to bet that maybe you do that, too.  

For my money personal integrity is a difficult virtue to uphold, perhaps the most difficult . But if I don't practice it, as in if I say I'm going to write and then don't, I feel it.  I'm disappointed in myself because I've let myself down.  And if I can't be in integrity to myself, how can I expect myself to offer it to anyone else?  In a post a couple of weeks ago–and I'm not linking to it because I can't even remember which one it was–I made mention of integrity and it seemed to me that's what resonated with people.  So it is good to write about it and talk about it with all of you and I hope that you'll leave your thoughts about how integrity arises or doesn't arise in your own life. 

Photo by Henkster.  (I'm not really sure what a Dandelion has to do with integrity, but for some reason it seemed appropriate.  Make of it what you will.)

0 thoughts on “Wednesday Within: Integrity

  1. Zan Marie

    To quote a Lois McMaster Bujold character–“Reputation is what the world thinks of you. Integrity is what you think about yourself.” We really do get caught up in the outside view and leave the inside lacking at times. Here’s to having integrity that matches your reputation.

    Have a wonderful day, Charlotte!

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Ooh, that is a wonderful quote, Zan Marie, thank you!

  3. J.D.

    Great post, Charlotte! I agree with Zan Marie’s quote. But when I look at myself, truly look at myself, I’m no shining example of integrity. I’ve had lapses, some of them ongoing. I’ve done a couple of dishonest things, years ago, that haunt me. Things gnaw at me. More so now; the cover on my conscience has thinned. My church has communion but we don’t have confession. I know God is merciful, much more forgiving than any of us. Still, I’d like to confess some of those things and just have someone tell me it’s okay.

    As for integrity and writing, for me fitting those together is like taking target practice from the back of a bucking bull. My mother died years ago. I love her deeply. One day I declared I wouldn’t write anything that I would be ashamed to show my mother. And I try, but we all have secrets. Should I write all the things inside me? Should I dress it up? Which is the greater sin? I don’t know, so I rely on God’s mercy.

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Wow, J.D., quite a meditation on integrity.  About confessing your transgressions: I took a class at my church a few years ago and one exercise in it was to get clear and go through and write down all the things you regret and were ashamed of.  And then the fun began–you were to read them to a trusted other person.  I was working with a life coach at the time and I chose her to read them to.  It was quite a good experience.  I was also the listener once when one of my friends did something similar.  It is a powerful thing to do.  And, I also believe that's why we have journals!  I think it is very helpful to write such things down, just to get them out of you.  And then you can burn them or whatever.  

  5. J.D.

    I’m reading “Gone Girl.” It’s not great literature. It does ring with a certain honesty. And Flynn gets a lot of relationships dead on, from both sides. The book is like a friend wearing a big bandaged. Underneath there is something ugly, yet I can’t help wanting to look. But it’s not great literature. Great literature not only shows us our faults, it shows us a way to better ourselves–doesn’t it? Is it enough for a book just to say: Yes, we’ve all done things like that? Even if we match sins, measure them to see who is worse, what does that mean? If we peel back the bandages, whose wound is uglier? Maybe I should burn them. It’s like tricking my conscience, but what if it works. Or does it matter. Is everyone else living with some of these things? I don’t know. That’s why I write genre. I don’t know the answers to these things. Though I can’t put “Gone Girl” down, I have a sick feeling there will be no answer in the end.

  6. Charlotte Dixon

    I saw the movie, and I might read the book because I've heard it is better.  (Big surprise.)  What struck me about the movie was that no character is perfect.  They peel back the layers of the main characters and keep revealing things that are not so great about them.  And yet I still felt sympathy for them by the end.  Except for Amy.  It is not the kind of book I aspire to write, but I appreciate the craft behind it.

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