Integrity

Integrity is when the inner person becomes one with the outer persona.

in·teg·ri·ty noun \in-ˈte-grə-tē\
: the quality of being honest and fair
: the state of being complete or whole
Merriam-Webster

The subject of confronting our “dark sides” seems to be popping up with greater frequency recently. The basic premise is that there is a part of ourselves that we do not like to look at; a part of ourselves that is considered “dark” by many. We choose to ignore or avoid confronting this part of ourselves because it is not pretty; it is perceived as a bad or evil aspect of our character. The crux of these essays is that we need to stop associating “dark” with “evil” and embrace this part of ourselves in order to be complete.

crossThere is a strong foundation recommending that this is due to cultural influences. Here in the predominantly Christian U.S., the concept of original sin seems to have many believing that people are evil by nature. However, based on New Testament verses, original sin only suggests that nobody is perfect, that we all have flaws. While some individuals have appeared to be extremely evil, there is nothing to suggest that humankind in general is an evil species.

hitlerThere are other cultural sources that recommend or condemn certain traits and/ or behaviors, such as modern media, government, and the behavioral sciences, for example. There should be some concern about cultural influences pressing people to be psychological clones of some arbitrary ideal. The focus of these essays are on the effects on the psyche of individuals, rather than the masses, though.

If we, as individuals, pretend that aspects of our character do not exist because they are cast in a poor shadow or are simply inconvenient to a stylized image we have of ourselves, does this make those characteristics go away? Certainly not! We are more likely to hear someone say, “I don’t know why I do these things.” Another form of this might be, “I don’t know why I feel the way I do.” This is because we are not whole or complete; we lack psychological and emotional integrity. In turn, this can cause us to lack integrity of character, which is the other definition of “integrity” that may be more familiar.

When we pretend that our so-called “dark side” does not exist, or simply refuse to confront it, we lack some awareness of ourselves. These traits will manifest themselves anyway, and life may seem out of control. If we confront this so-called “dark side,” awareness provides some control over ourselves that we previously seemed to lack; we can find ways to balance these aspects of our character with other aspects of our character. Complete awareness of ourselves enables us to choose completely because previously unrecognized inner forces do not have the power to interfere anymore. We can then be the people we actually want to be; that we choose to be.

A denial of, or refusal to confront, this so-called “dark side” would appear to be the foundation for a “split personality” where behavior seems irrational and uncontrollable. Embracing this aspect of our character provides us with the power to choose the type of person we want to be. In other words, integrity of character appears to be a necessary prerequisite for moral integrity. Integrity of character also appears to be a prerequisite for mental health. Be one with yourself.

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

Ancient lore from the Middle-east tells of a mythic land of lush vegetation and creatures of every kind. The first man and the first woman were placed there to tend that garden. They could eat fruit from any tree in that garden, except one. This familiar and ancient tale tells of humankind’s fall from grace with their creator, God; it is the story of their separation from the great Spirit. This tale is foundational in explaining why humankind suffers.

biblesGreat religions have been founded on the lore which begins this ancient tale. Some of the followers of those religions view that lore as the literal history of humankind. Some declare that the ancient writings mean exactly what they say, that these writings are to be read literally. However, few seem to actually pay attention to how those scriptures were truly written.

The one tree that the first man and the first woman were not supposed to eat from stood at the center of the garden. Some refer to this tree as the tree of knowledge, but this is wholly inaccurate. The tree was not a tree of all knowledge, general knowledge, or just any old knowledge. It was a tree of some very specific knowledge: the knowledge of good and evil. This detail is intrinsic to truly understanding this ancient lore.

A cunning creature, the serpent, disputed what the great Spirit claimed about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is clear from the accepted verse that the serpent directed the conversation toward the woman, but it is also clear that her husband was with her at the time. Convinced that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make them wise, the woman took some fruit from the tree and gave some of it to her husband who was with her. They both ate the fruit, but nothing actually suggests that the woman deceived or coerced the man in any manner. There was an immediate effect from eating the fruit, though.

The first and immediate result of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil should be a strong clue as to what that fruit actually was. It seems commonly accepted that the fruit was apples, but some have speculated that it might have been pomegranates. However, the obvious fruit of the knowledge of good and evil should be judgment!

The first thing the man and woman do when their eyes are opened by the knowledge of good and evil is to judge their nakedness to be evil. They attempted to cover themselves with leaves. However, nudity was not a problem with the great Spirit before they ate the fruit. The great Spirit need not be all-knowing, all-seeing, or even a genius to know what happened when the man and woman hid because they were naked. Contrary to the serpent’s assertion, the knowledge of good and evil did not make them wise… or even smart.

bornagainSin, as some advance it, is what causes a separation between humankind (people) and the great Spirit (God.) Clearly, nudity did not cause a separation between the great Spirit and the first man and woman; judgment did. This should be evident to those who claim to follow the teachings of a Child of Wisdom who said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” However, according to this tale, the great Spirit also explained the reason for expelling the first man and woman from the garden:

Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ (Genesis 3:22 NASB).

Partaking of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil caused more than just a separation between people and Spirit. A comparison of conditions before and after the fruit of judgment was eaten reveals a separation between man and woman, also.

When the great Spirit formed the first man from the dust of the ground, he was called Adam. Then the great Spirit created creatures to help Adam, and Adam named every creature presented to him. However, none of these creatures seemed to be a satisfactory helper for Adam. For this reason, the Great Spirit caused Adam to sleep and removed a rib from Adam to create a suitable helper for him. This helper was called “woman” because she was taken out of man. However, she was given no other name because she was taken out of Adam, she was part of Adam, she was one with Adam; she also was Adam.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24 NASB).

When the great Spirit asked Adam if he had eaten the fruit he was commanded not to, Adam tried to avoid personal responsibility in the matter by blaming the woman. In contrast, the woman succinctly tells what happened and admits her fault when asked. The great Spirit then makes pronouncements to the serpent, the woman, and then the man. However, before the pronouncement is given to the man, a clear statement is made that the attempt to blame the woman failed.

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;” (Genesis 3:17 NASB).

This eye-opening line should cause a curious soul to go back to investigate the story leading up to this statement. Even a quick scan will reveal that the great Spirit commanded Adam not not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before the woman was created. There is no indication that this command was ever given to the woman by the great Spirit directly. It seems a reasonable assumption that her knowledge of this command only came from Adam. However, after the great Spirit’s pronouncements are made, Adam then names the woman Eve.

Eve is no longer Adam; there is a separation between the two now. Based on contemporary behavior, it seems reasonable to deduce this to be because Adam still felt Eve was to blame for him eating the forbidden fruit, despite the statement from the great Spirit that held him responsible for his own actions. For this reason, Adam makes a distinction between himself and the woman by giving her a different name. In fact, some believers of this lore continue to blame women for “original sin” to this day.

The problem with the fruit called “judgment” is that it is commonly prejudiced in favor of the one making judgments. After the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden commonly associated with paradise, what humankind judged to be “good” lead to such corruption that the great Spirit caused a deluge to wash the face of the Earth clean, according to that ancient lore. Even today, the common judgment of who is better than who usually leads to misery for somebody, even to war.

darktreeThe strange part of this ancient lore is that those who claim it is the “gospel truth” are quick to judge others and ready to make war. Women are still not perceived as partners and companions, but rather as subservient with discrimination, domestic violence, genital mutilation, and murder being promoted. They also tend to still view nudity as sinful. The only likely explanation for this is that they have eyes, but cannot see, and they have ears but cannot hear. However, this is also why they lack spiritual power. You will know them by their fruit.

It has been asked, “How can your live a right and proper life without making judgments as to what is good and what is evil.” Perhaps an answer can be found in this ancient lore? It would seem that the ability to discern what is true and what is false would have been much more valuable to the first man and woman than the killing fruit of judgment.

Can you discern truth?