I recently read in a book that the Kaaba –the most sacred location in Islam to which millions of Muslims all over the world turn when doing their daily prayers –already existed in pre-Islamic times. Back then, it housed a plethora of gods worshipped by different groups in the area. It is believed that in the middle of the pre-Islamic Kaaba was a nail, which was seen as the center of the universe. Pilgrims who came to worship in the Kaaba would uncover their belly and place their navel on said nail to achieve at least momentarily a state of utter harmony and perfect alignment with everything that exists and everything that could be conceived of existing.
We humans seek a state of harmony with the world, or the universe, or the divine, or whatever we might call it, a state where our self-interest coincides with what we perceive as the greater good. A state in which it does not matter if our motivation stems from selfishness or altruism, because the resulting action would be the same in either case. This is how I imagine living with integrity in its most perfect form.
If integrity is both a combination of honesty and strong moral principles and a state of wholeness, then living with integrity means to be the very best version of who we truly are. It means looking in the mirror in the morning and being genuinely pleased with the person looking back at us, regardless of wrinkles or grey hair or multiple chins. It means we do what is right –for others and for ourselves –even in the smallest of situations. Have you ever hid in the detergent aisle at the supermarket because you spotted this one person by the frozen cakes –this one person who you should have called a long time ago but you never got around to it? And the longer you put it off, the worse you feel, and you keep on ducking in aisles, feeling guilty and completely leaving that person in the dark as to why you seemingly fell off the face of the earth and never run into them by the frozen cakes anymore? How easy it would be to just walk up and say, “wow. I meant to call you for so long. And I never did. I am sorry. But I am so glad to run in to you, right here, by the frozen cakes...” no ducking. No excuses. Just honesty, and our very own imperfect, forgetful, chaotic self at its very best. Integrity, in its most minute form. And yet, how much better we would feel!
Let’s make this new decade one of integrity in every moment, a decade of doing right by others, and doing right by our perfectly imperfect selves!