By: Stefanos Sifandos
We will discuss the importance of integrity and having clearly well-defined values in both intimate relationships and in leadership on a global scale. My aim is to demonstrate the innate importance, alongside the necessity to be, of integrity now more than ever. By doing so, we are choosing to elevate humanity’s footprint in the healthiest of ways across all domains of life – geopolitical, relational, socio-economical, cultural, and for the individual across our communities. I will also demonstrate how what we desire begins with who we are in the world and how we show up to ourselves at a “micro-level” within our own minds.
In a world where being seen and visibility is not only so easy to attain, but simultaneously means so much to our ego and our mission (depending on where you come from), being in integrity with our values is everything. We are seeing a world where terms such as “transparency” are becoming the norm and a way of life. Transparency; specifically in communication, leadership, and how we show up in the world.
We are living in uncertainty more than we perhaps have before. This means that being untruthful means being unsafe. With all of the uncertainty in our world at present, further feeding into this feeling of unsafe integrity is fast becoming a valued asset and character trait. Particularly in intimate relationships and likewise in leadership.
The world is tiring of the façade; where our actions are not matching our words. Where our movement in the world is not aligned with our beliefs, thoughts, and moral standings.
As a behavioural and relational specialist and someone who works with men, women, couples, and larger groups, what I am hearing is “the truth”. People want more of the truth. They do not want to be led down a path of disappointment. They want to be shown how it actually is. More fear is being bred through false pretence. People want to be trusted to hold the truth, and people want to share themselves and life at a deeper level; asking openly to work through their own fears so that they can contribute more meaningfully to society.
But why do so many hide behind a veil of lies, out of integrity, and not living to the public values they say they really do? We hide because we are scared of being abandoned, rejected, losing what we have and other fears. These fears are essentially grounded in a sense of self that does not feel whole, confident, or worthy of giving and receiving love.
You may be asking though, what has this got to do with integrity and the global epidemics we at times face? Well, the whole (our society at a macro level) is made up of many varied personalities and people with agendas and ideals (individuals at the micro level), which ultimately feed into the larger system.
Now I am not suggesting that change is ONLY a grass roots issue. In fact, I am suggesting that deep and meaningful transformation at a societal level is simultaneously achieved and embodied through a grass roots and top-down approach. However it very much begins and ends with us as individuals. We make up the whole and we must be responsible for our contributions or often lack thereof.
This can be challenging because now we are faced with not only the prospect of becoming uncomfortable with change, but also the ego self being disillusioned with the fear of the unknown. It is often easier to remain in ignorance or familiar pain than it is to change. I will share a personal story with you; how I was way out of integrity, and how and why I got back into integrity.
But first let’s define integrity, as this lays the foundation of what we are creating.
Dictionary.com and Marriam-Webster defines integrity as follows:
Integrity: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
The state of being whole and undivided.
Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY
An unimpaired condition: SOUNDNESS
The quality or state of being complete or undivided: COMPLETENESS
c. 1400, “innocence, blamelessness; chastity, purity,” from Old French integrité or directly from Latin integritatem (nominative integritas) “soundness, wholeness, completeness,” figuratively “purity, correctness, blamelessness,” from integer “whole” (see integer). Sense of “wholeness, perfect condition” is mid-15c.
Late Middle English (in integrity (sense 2): from French intégrité or Latin integritas, from integer ‘intact’
What do we desire? Are we desiring wholeness? Are we wanting to move away from a fractured expression of self, and are we desiring to move into a world that feels complete? In order to experience this though, we must be this for ourselves and within ourselves. Clearing the clutter of our own minds, feeling whole within ourselves and then aligning our actions and behaviours (external expression) with our values, beliefs, thoughts and feelings (internal state) creates integrity – wholeness – harmony.
I lived most of my life out of integrity (not feeling whole and hiding from the world) because I was in fear. We often hide our true selves when we do not know who we are. I was raised in a violent family dynamic. I sought approval from a source that could not provide it to me. I felt scared; I couldn’t be me and I felt alone and isolated. Over time I made this mean that I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough to be paid attention to. That coupled with physical abuse resulted in my sense of self being distorted.
As a child I hid from the world and as a teenager, I had enough. As I entered my teenage years I felt very uncomfortable; I felt awkward, self-conscious and out of place. I began to project and blame externally, not taking responsibility for what I was feeling and taking on more and more of my father’s negative and unconstructive character traits. I was uncertain and could not make solid decisions. I was not vertical in posture, nor confident in my being.
I wanted others to choose for me, for I did not believe in myself. I was uncoordinated, overweight, not popular, a late bloomer (other kids were sexual and I had barely kissed a girl). I was coming into myself but did not know who to ask questions to, who to look to for guidance when it came to the physical changes I was experiencing. I just wanted to understand myself through the lens of a healthy man.
It was here in this time period that my brother whom I loved so dearly was also suffering. I withdrew, suppressed and isolated myself in life, and he turned to distraction in the form of violence, uncontrolled aggression and drugs. He began mixing with peers who also shared this same sentiment and he began to derail his life. I buried my head in the sand whilst at the same time was so deeply concerned. I was so frustrated, that the action I would take would often be aggressive towards him, and so we danced this dance of projection and frustration.
My teenage years were an eclectic mix of feeling life fully. I was bullied, I was made fun of, and so I felt different. As a result I began to rebel even more, more so than my childhood. Rather than being bullied, I bullied. I began to work on my physical body, I began to go outward, but not in a healthy way. I became aggressive, abrupt, rude, violent, loud, and disconnected from my core.
Moving into adulthood I became hyperselfish. It was all about me. I wanted to give to others, I wanted to share, but didn’t know how – as I had formed such a powerful protective shell of armor. Infidelity, dishonesty, confusion around my values, a lack of integrity, and not feeling whole but rather confused, angry and frustrated most of the time; hidden behind masks of false bravado, arrogance mixed with confidence, and the ability to pretend “all was fine” was what consumed my life.
One of my intimate and romantic relationships a number of years ago was the major catalyst for my propulsion into self; my transformation, repositioning of my life and masculinity, and fully into my darkness. The relationship unravelled when she discovered my unfaithful behaviour.
I did not even have the courage to tell her first. Her intuition, recognition of patterns in my behaviour, my distance, my aggression, and posturing told her so much. From there, I witnessed someone – that in my mind and heart I sincerely cared for and loved – devastated and traumatised by my dishonesty. I observed her whole world crumble because of my actions.
This was intense for me to say the least. My whole life literally flashed before my eyes and I realised that change was necessary. Prior to this apex point of emotive explosion, I was wanted to “be caught”; to free myself of this burden. As men we want clarity and verticality, and we can only be and embody this when we are clear within ourselves. Every time I was close to a woman fear would surface, and I would be with other women in whatever way possible to give me inner relief. I wanted the safety of intimacy and partnership, yet I could not be with one woman.
Some would say that this is a natural biological function for both men and women; to yearn to be physically intimate or sexual with multiple people. Yes, there is truth to this. But what was primarily driving me was not natural healthy biological urges, mine was deep fear.
And I know this unequivocally because when I consciously took myself through certain processes of discovery, these burdens were lifted. My behaviour changed, my foundations shifted, and I was liberated. Having witnessed such toxic and unhealthy relationships growing up, the subtle associations I made with relationships were disconnected. I wanted intimacy (it was something I knew two people could achieve; growing together and impacting the world and each other – in a sacred union), but for my body (traumatised from what it was holding onto) it was a MASSIVE NO!
Observing her pain was a breakthrough for me. I had two choices – go deep into all of this, unpack the layers and get *expletive beginning with F* real with who I was, what I had become, and how I treated others and myself – or remain in ignorance.
She was graceful, she also chose not to come from previous conditioning and realised that there was healing in the situation – but only to a certain extent. It was too painful for both of us and in short, we ended the union after a few short months of attempting to make it work. I knew we were different people and I honoured that. I knew she was not for me and I was not for her.
However, what was interesting for me was the journey and the clarity; the purpose that rose to the surface, the fears, the witnessing of self and the authentic power cultivated. I ceased all dishonesty and cheating, the shadow work and hiding from self and others – placing minimal energy into the survival of the cultural world, I ceased working and lived off of whatever I had.
I immersed myself into self; devouring multiple books weekly, deeper meditation – deeper than I have ever done before. I sought spiritual guidance, therapy (multiple times per week). I spent time in nature, recovering from the trauma of the situation and the trauma of what I was unearthing within. Nurturing and connecting to myself. I exercised deliberately in order to release. I spent time in solitude. I lost – I lost the layers of self that I had identified with.
I experienced multiple ego and psycho-emotional deaths – purposeful, deliberate and deep. I spent time with wise practitioners, healers and medicine people. I journeyed with sacred plant medicine, but first spent ample time exploring my fears, darkness and pain in familiar states of consciousness through deepened meditation, breath work and solitude.
I drew out the demons, one by one, revering them for the role they had played for me as a young person; that helped me cope with the pain of isolation and more. Then I acknowledged that it was now time for them to leave, as they no longer served me. This was deeply impactful for me…
Now I could continue deeper into the lessons and teachings, however there is an underlying truth in all of this… When we do our own inner work, life changes for the better. When we move out of fear and into integrity and truth, we feel wholeness in every facet of our lives. Am I perfect? Have I transcended pain and all fear? NO! I, like all of us, am a work in progress. We are in progress. And that is an empowering and humbling place to be.
Our opportunity here and now is to delve deeper into our truth. Be in integrity with what we desire. Seek professional support. Revaluate our beliefs and who we truly want to be. Who we are surrounding ourselves with, and how we are contributing to the greater collective. Our time to shine as a species is now. And it won’t come without processing emotionally and spiritually our fears, pains and supressed traumas, and unresolved issues.
The invitation is to be open to being this person that chooses growth, expansion, and awareness over hiding behind convenience, fear, and pain.
I implore you to lean into the discomfort, feel the unfelt feelings and choose to expand your sense of self, consciousness, and expression in the world. Integrity is a gift, and one the world and your soul needs here and now.