Integrity and Writing

Came across a quote today “No matter how educated, talented, rich, or cool you think you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything.”

I don’t know that I agree that Intergrity is everything … there are so many other things we do in our lives that are just as important, but I definitely agree with the first part. No matter how much money you make, how famous you become, how many letters or accolades you have behind your name, if you treat people like crap, none of it matters. And yet … it’s never quite that simple. We’re talking about people. Human beings. Flawed creatures.

This week was not stellar for me. The death of a long time family friend left me emotionally frayed so when a new friend of mine touched a trigger point, I didn’t handle it well. I flipped out. Which was both fortunate and unfortunate depending on your point of view.

Fortunately, this friend understood what was going on with me and didn’t over-react, like I did.

Fortunately, we were able to work through it. At least I’m pretty sure we did. I hope we did. Yeah, I’m sure we did. (see … writers are good at writing, not so much at figuring out relationships)

Unfortunately, I can’t take it back. It happened.

Unfortunately, my friend can’t take it back either.

The strange set of circumstances leading up to it we could never repeat. They were a convergence of fate, you might say. Things were happening in my friend’s life and things were happening in my life that just intersected at the wrong time.

I came across as a judgmental b****. And yet, I never meant it to be that way. I try really hard not to judge people. I accept everyone, flaws and all. I believe people have a right to live as they see fit and in a way that suits them as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. And that’s where the crash occurred. What they saw as doing what they wanted and had a right to do, I saw as something else. Had I been in their living room, I probably would have walked off and ignored them. But I wasn’t. In this modern age of technology, I was at the end of an email … and it’s really hard to erase those things once you hit send.

I could have ignored it. Hit delete. But in my highly emotional state, exhausted from everything that had been going on, I reacted.

Just like any other human being might have and does on occasion.

We live in a world filled with memes that seem to speak to universal truths and yet, they’re really not far removed from 1950’s sitcom life. There is something ideal in them, maybe something good, but ultimately they aren’t real. They’re just words on a page and what we make of them is what’s important.

The dictionary defines integrity as firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values“.  I guess that could mean how we treat other people but it could mean a lot of other things too. It seems to me that integrity is more about living up to your own expectations and values than it is about how we interact with others. Sometimes, I guess the two collide though, like it did this week for me.

One of my values/morals is to accept people for who they are, as they are and show them compassion along this thing we call life. And yet … I made a judgment call based on circumstances and emotions. I didn’t follow through with my own integrity. I didn’t live up to my own morals.

It’s a good thing my friend did. They didn’t react to my lack of integrity (at least not so I’d know) … they basically told me to calm down and relax, that things would work out … for which I am extremely grateful. Not many people I know would have.

So, what does any of this have to do with writing? Writing is all about words, how we use them, how we manipulate their meanings, how we string them together to weave a world that sucks people in and makes them believe that anything is possible. Ultimately, we lie to them and make them believe the lie.

I don’t know too many people who would openly admit to having “I will lie” on their list of moral character traits. And yet as writers that’s what we do. We lie to people and we get paid for it. And we expect to get paid for it. So what does that say about how we treat other people? How does that fit with having integrity?

I guess the answer depends on each individual. For me, it means choosing words carefully and precisely, like chiseling a sculpture with dental tools instead of a jack hammer. I want them all to count, to mean something, to create images in the mind of the people who read them, to evoke emotions and moods. It doesn’t always mean I’m successful, just that I’m trying. Cause in the end that’s all any human being can do.

We’re going to hurt people along this thing we call life … people we don’t mean to hurt. And we’re going to be hurt by people as well. But hopefully, in the end, we can forgive and move on. Show compassion. Realize life is fascinating no matter what it offers or where it takes us.




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