Saturday, September 10, 2011

Authenticity and Integrity

I was intrigued by an article in the NYTimes on authenticity. It's a big word today. Everyone wants to be authentic. What I hear when I hear authenticity is being true to one's self. Being who one is, not wearing a mask.

When I was growing up the word was integrity. Integrity is a lot like authenticity. Integrity is about being true, being true to one's word, following through with what one has promised, being able to be trusted.

Authenticity and integrity are related--both are related to truth. But, they are polar opposites. Authencity is inwardly focused--being true to who one is, what one wants. Integrity is outwardly focused--being true to others.

I'm sure I don't want to be authentic. I want to be different depending on the circumstances. I am not the same person with my son as with my bridge group. And believe me, my son would not want to be around me if I were the same person with him as with the bridge group. I am not the same person in a cathedral as I am watching a bad movie. I was not the same person as a pastor as with my clergy friends. Each of these masks are me, but they are different.

What I can hope to be in all situations is a person of integrity. I can keep my word, I can be honest. I can not take advantage of people. I can be true.

To some extent, I am feeling a bit cranky and old. I feel like one of those really old cranky people who is constantly saying how things were better then. One of the things that concerns me, though, is our current self focus. What do I want is the important question, not where is the common good. And I am as prone to this as anyone. What has shifted is that selfishness, selfcenteredness is now the accepted norm. I think people have always been selfish and self centered. Moral norms though encouraged people to consider others and the common good. Selfishness was discouraged. Now, it seems everyone has taken Gordon Gekko's "greed is good" seriously. And greed is not good. It is certainly not good for society, free marketeers to the contrary notwithstanding. (And Adam Smith recognized that even in a free market, there must be concern for the common good.) Greed is not good for the individual either. Greed can never be satisfied. There is never enough. There is one more shiny toy. Greed is a deep well that can never be filled. Greed encourages long hours and using people. Greed is not good.

Well, I've wandered around a bit. My thoughts for a Saturday morning.

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