Integrity

Integrity verses Honesty

When the virtue integrity is mentioned, the concept of honesty often comes to mind. However, integrity and honesty are quite different.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines integrity as “being of sound moral principal; state of being complete, unbroken.” A person’s integrity reflects his or her soundness of mind and soul.

The US Navy uses the term integrity to describe the seaworthiness of a ship. A vessel with questionable integrity would be at risk in a rough sea. Its hull may not be expected to hold up to a constant pounding of waves, or for some other reason it might lack enough integrity to keep seawater out. A ship with integrity is completely ready for sea.

Honesty is a good word too. People who are honest refrain from deception. They are more forthright in relationships, less apt to cut corners or conform just to be politically correct. Honesty is a personal character trait that is part of one’s reputation. It is a trait that wears well on others even in the case where hearing the truth is painful. Using a military example again, the Navy demonstrates its value for honesty at commissioning ceremonies when it asks its prospective leaders to take the oath , “An officer will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those that do.”

Although honesty is not synonymous with integrity, its absence certainly indicates a lack of integrity. If a person has a reputation of choosing to lie, cheat or steal, that person almost always lacks some type of integrity. When someone demonstrates that they cannot be trusted their dishonest behavior usually reflects a history of unresolved heart wounds. It can be assumed that unless and until such a person engages in a process of facing that history, separating what was true from what was untrue around the circumstances at the source of those wounds, that person will not fare well in the storms of life any more than a weakly built ship would stand the storms of sea.

Integrity: the personal state wholeness; complete. Being strong enough to be honest, open and candid regardless of the temporary cost.

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Ocean Craft Comparison

While paddling home from work, my phone rang.

The seven-word sentence above would cause most people in my generation to pause in order to weigh exactly what is being said. People 30-years old and younger simply would not find anything unusual in it.

Since salt water is really tough on cellphones, I decided to grab onto an unused mooring buoy to keep my kayak from going out to sea while I put down my paddle, got my hands dry and answered.

The caller was a friend from New Hampshire with whom I quickly got into an enjoyable conversation. After a long day in the sun and with no immediate schedule I was quite content to just lay back and chat. The call was so engrossing that I never saw the shiny black, 80′ yacht as it approached the mooring from behind me. Apparently the skipper of that ostentatious beauty had gained permission from harbor control to tie up on the one buoy among the dozens of empty buoys around there that I had latched onto. My call was interrupted by a British accent hovering about 15 feet above me with a long boat pole at the ready.

I apologized to my NH friend, hung up, put my phone back into its Zip-Lock bag, apologized to my new British acquaintance for the inconvenience of causing him to tread water after such a long ocean crossing, and paddled off the buoy resuming the commute home.

As I departed, looking back, I noticed the flag of royalty and a British home port spelled out on her stern. Without knowing what she had for furnishings and electronics down below, I estimated the market value of this stunning ship to be over a million dollars -more likely over a million pounds. I wondered sincerely if the crew of such a treasure would have noticed the seals that had greeted me as I paddled by harbor ledges on my way in. The seals pay more attention to kayaks than to large vessels because they know kayaks can come much closer to them.

I wondered if I should have invited myself on board during the exchange at the buoy. Those British seafaring folks would likely have been interested in sharing common stories. After all, I conned ships about that size across the oceans during my Navy years; and I have some interesting stories to embellish too. One they would like was about a visit aboard a Royal Navy ship, back in Hong Kong when it was still a British Crown Colony. Ah, but these folks were undoubtedly tired, and about to honor the sun’s position over the yardarm with their Beefeater custom. Besides, an old guy with a sunburned face, clutching a harbor buoy at water level probably looked to them much like a vagrant street person would look to an arriving airport traveler. They mightn’t have recognized the potential attractiveness of the acquaintance. Especially since security aboard royal assets like that would have been tight.

Wondering what life was like on such a prestigious platform, I asked myself that day, “Am I better off performing my humble job, teaching visitors about the ocean, paddling to and from work? Or, should I aspire to the status of sailing ’round the world on a celebrity yacht like that?” At the coming time when this life is over, glancing back through the decades, what would the lasting differences look like?

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Drink This Cup

Sometimes life serves us a cup. When the cup is sweet, we drink and we feel justified. Ahhh, I deserved that!

But when the cup is bitter, what then? Do we resist? Do we drink and swallow hard? There are answers to this question, but they are usually disguised or perceived as being religious. We need to address and accept the wisdom without having to join  a church or align with someone else’s dogma. There is so much to be gained, and we would not need to run away from pain. Even Jesus asked that question before submitting to the Roman execution.

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Meditation Place

Sitting alone in a kayak on a relatively calm sea offers the chance for precious space – from stress, from too much thought and from too much noise. Of course the ocean can change in the heartbeat of new weather. Calm on the open ocean does not last for long, but undoubtedly long enough.

To permit a little space in a busy mind is healthy. One does not need to become a mystic ignoring career, family and friends, to be nourished by a breath of quiet. With practice the skill of creating space for a moment or two can be exercised in a crowd, at the office or just about anywhere other than a cocktail party. The value of having water present implies that there might be no better place for meditation than alone on a quiet sea.

The kayak hobby is not about the boat but about where the boat can take you. If the rocks aren’t visible from their cover of seaweed or splashing water, then they’re probably deep enough to pass over without concern. Kayaks are especially good for finding meditation places where an already intelligent mind can put its ego on hold long enough to allow the soul to receive another infusion of eternal wisdom. Much like downloading new software from a higher source, the soul only asks that the chatter of hurry, the voice of past mistakes and concerns for reputation all be relaxed long enough to allow the real center to return to the center of the person. Then intelligence and experience return to function on a renewed and solidified foundation.

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