by Niall Doherty

Human beings have a remarkable capacity to take things that are related to each other and stick them in separate airtight compartments so they don’t rub up against each other and cause them much pain. We’re all familiar with the man who goes to church on Sunday morning, believing that he loves God and God’s creation and his fellow human beings, but who, on Monday morning, has no trouble with his company’s policy of dumping toxic waste in a local stream. He can do this because he has his religion in one compartment and his work in another… It is a very comfortable way to operate, but integrity it is not.

The word integrity comes from the same root as integrate. It means to achieve wholeness, which is the opposite of compartmentalize. Compartmentalization is easy. Integrity is painful. But without it there can be no wholeness. Integrity requires that we be fully open to the conflicting forces and ideas and stresses of life.

— M. Scott Peck, Further Along the Road Less Traveled

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about integrity lately, and below I want to share with you a few things running through my brain. First though, I’d like to emphasize that I definitely don’t consider myself to be some master of integrity. I believe we’re all hypocrites to some extent, regularly choosing to turn a blind eye to our own inconsistencies, or else being completely unaware of them in the first place.

And that’s okay. We can’t be perfect. Hell, even Scotty P above struggled with integrity. He wrote so much in his lifetime about truth and love and trust, but apparently cheated so frequently during his 40-year marriage that his wife eventually divorced his ass.

So methinks this life dealio is too big and complex for us to truly wrap our tiny minds around everything and act with integrity 24/7. My aim is simply to do the best that I can and hopefully become a little less hypocritical every day.

Alright, let’s dive in…

Eating dog

I believe there’s a disconnect there when folks are perfectly fine with eating cows and chickens but not dogs. To me, that’s like famous people getting away with crimes that regular people would go to jail for; just because they’re popular doesn’t mean they should get special treatment.

So if you’re going to eat meat, I say go for it, but with that choice made you can’t seriously cite morality as your reason for passing up a leg of Lassie.

Along similar lines, I see a disconnect when folks are uncomfortable with hunting but have no problem buying steak and eggs at the supermarket. More often than not, those packaged products come from factory farms where the animals are crammed together and fed unnatural food all their lives. At least that deer your uncle shot lived wild and free before meeting a sudden end.

Now I’m not saying you should go track and kill a wild pig every time you’re jonesing for a pork chop, but I do think you should be at least willing to kill an animal yourself if you’re prepared to eat it. That to me is integrity.

(Hat tip to this post on Milt’s site for getting my wheels turning on the above.)

Piracy (not the Arrrrrgggghhh! kind)

I used to have more than six thousand MP3’s on my computer, all downloaded illegally. A few years back I deleted the entire collection, but today I again find myself with some illegal tracks in my iTunes, and every so often I’ll rip audio from a YouTube video and transfer it to my phone.

My laptop crashed back in January and I lost all the Adobe applications I’d been able to keep from my old 9-to-5. I’d downloaded cracked versions of Photoshop and the like before — literally thousands of dollars worth of software — but this time I decided not to go that route, opting to do without until I could afford the retail price. Still, when friends emailed me serial numbers to unlock the expired trial version of Photoshop, I went ahead and tried them.

Given all the above, it would be fantastically hypocritical of me to condemn piracy, so I’ll try to avoid that. I have become aware though of the compartmentalization I’ve got going on here, and I’ve been striving to move more towards integrity for a while now.

I believe self-employment has helped. Through that I’ve developed a much greater appreciation for the creative act. It feels good when people pay fair price for a product I create or a service I provide. It’s nice to be rewarded for the value you contribute to the world. To ensure I’m acting with integrity then, I should be willing to pay fair price for the value I receive from others. Going back to the Photoshop example, an individual license would cost me $800. Is that a fair price? I think so. That’s some pretty kick-ass software right there. Gimp just doesn’t cut it for me.

I’m also a big believer in the abundance mindset, and trying to save money by using free software or downloading the expensive stuff illegally doesn’t fit with that. How can I expect people to pay top dollar for my products and services when I’m not willing to spend top dollar on something myself? I’m hoping for abundance, but my actions scream scarcity. Integrity: not so much, but I’m working on it.

Investing in others

I’ve held back on signing up for several online courses over the past few months. Part of it was to save money, and part of it was because I held the belief that I could learn more from my own trial and error than I could from any online course. I still think those are pretty good reasons, but I was missing something big.

See, I have my own online course (currently closed to new members, but reopening next week), and not many people have signed up for it since the initial launch back in March. The disconnect is that I was expecting folks to sign up for my course while I was actively avoiding signing up for anyone else’s. Integrity lacking.

I was also missing the whole investment part. When someone signs up for my online course, they’re essentially investing in me, taking a leap and sending the message that they believe in what I’m doing and the value I can provide. As a result, I feel invested in them. They’ve demonstrated that they want me to succeed, and so I can’t help but root for them to succeed, too. As such, I check in with them every so often via email, read and comment on their blogs, and generally just try to help them out however I can. (This is especially true for those folks who really make the most of my course, doing such things as taking recommended action or posting in the forum.)

For some reason it took me a while to realize that I’d receive a similar investment from others when I sign up for and contribute to their courses. There I was trying to form solid connections with some specific people online, without ever actually investing real money in their projects. The message I was sending was, “Hey, I believe in what you’re doing, but not enough to pay for it. Wanna be my friend?”

So now I’m starting to look at online courses as investments. I’m not about to go splash out on a dozen of them, but there are two in particular that I intend to sign up for this month and become deeply involved with. I expect the information in those courses will be phenomenal, but for me the real value will be sending a clear message that I believe in what those folks are doing. The next step will be giving them some good reasons to return the favor.

How’s your integrity hanging?

What do you compartmentalize? Have you identified any areas where your integrity is lacking? As noted at the start of this post, we’re all hypocrites at some level, so don’t go beating yourself up about any disconnect you notice within yourself. Just try to close those gaps a little more every day.

P.S. My latest finance report will be posted this weekend for email subscribers only. In there I detail everything I earned and spent in July, and reveal how much money I have left to my name. To ensure you don’t miss it, scroll down a bit and do the subscribe thing.