Integrity is our compassApr 06, 2022
We have the right to plot our own course
I am who I am. Unapologetically so. I am fat, refuse to wear makeup, and after two years in lockdown I have gone full comfort and wear only what I feel comfortable in. And now more than ever I speak my mind. Because integrity is everything.
I have always been that kid that sided with the underdog, and stood up against injustice. My Mum often marvelled at the fact that I would happily hang out with kids who were considered to have learning disabilities. I never understood why that was so impressive. I saw no difference. People were people. So when my fifth year teacher - who was studying Theology alongside his job - told us, 10-year-olds, that people who were attracted to people of their own gender had no place in the church, I was deeply upset.
Not only was it a logical error in mind, but it upset the wholeness - the integrity - of my worldview.
When this role model made that statement, he caused a critical error in my little brain. One the one hand, he was speaking as an authority on Christianity and spokesman of God, and on the other hand, his statement conflicted with that other tenet of faith, that God is love.
I learnt to be cautious that day. I learnt that the words people utter do not always match their intent.
For us, neurodivergent individuals, integrity takes on special significance. We rely on truthfulness, because often we find it difficult to interpret social cues. This is why we struggle with irony, sarcasm and humour. Many of us take things as presented. We can be vulnerable to exploitation because of this.
As children, we stand out as different, because of it. We appear slow to catch the meaning of things. We are made fun of, singled out, bullied, and held back. This undermines our confidence and self-esteem.
It also causes us to mimic the behaviours that seem to be accepted and preferred in our peers. This is called ‘masking’. A significant portion of our energy and focus goes into this activity, leaving us depleted of resources for the tasks we are expected to attend to. As a consequence, we are permanently exhausted and baulk at demands for attention; behaviour for which we are punished.
By the time we reach puberty, we have lost faith in adults and peers alike. We feel alone in the world, and bad about ourselves. We might fall into risk taking behaviour, just to feel something. Many of us suffer additional trauma through this phase. Some won’t survive. Those of us that do
learn more about the make-belief nature of society, and the stupendous pressure to fit in. We face a choice: fake till you make it, or rage against the machine.
And as adults each of us stumbles along their chosen path, suffering exhaustion, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, burnout and a whole lot more. Each cry out in the silence of their souls: there must be a better way!
And there is.
As these two paths hurtle downhill towards a cliff, we face another choice: take a leap of faith, or turn around to have another go at it.
Go ahead. Dive in..
Below lies the ocean of Integrity. Bathe in the waters of wholeness. Feel that healing sensation; its acceptance; its welcoming embrace.
In the soothing whisper of the waves is a message: You are perfect the way you are. You are loved. You are entitled to be your authentic self. You compliment others as they do complement you. And as much as it conflicts with everything you’ve come to believe, deep within you know it’s right. Because humanity is a jigsaw puzzle, and each of us is its own unique piece. You don’t have to pretend you’re something else. The puzzle wouldn’t work without you.
So hold on to that message, that experience, and assert your wholeness, your authentic self. You have the right to be who you are. Integrity is your starting point. In yourself, but also in others. Ask that people communicate clearly and transparently with you. Honesty aids understanding. Honesty supports building trust and confidence. Be clear in your intentions, too. If you struggle with expressing your thoughts and feelings, carry a card that explains this, and put it on the (virtual) table before you start communicating. Your feelings and thoughts are valid.
Integrity means wholeness. Completeness. The whole picture. Accuracy. Accountability. Uprightness. A level playing field. Fairness. Inclusivity. Equality. Doing what you say you will.
Integrity is our compass. We have the right to plot our own course.
Cora Burke, Cand. RTTP