This month our team at YouInc has been discussing and debating what it means to have integrity. We agree that while everyone wants to stand for something—it gives our lives direction, meaning, and belonging—to get up and act on what we believe in every day is actually hard to do.
I think it’s important to take any steps possible toward creating positive change in this world , because one day we’ll look back and wish we had found the courage to make ourselves heard. We’ll wish we had stood up and spoken up, alone or together, when we knew we should. We have a civic and human duty to make this place better - not only for today, but for the generations behind us.
Here are stories of integrity I’m inspired by this month:
The Disease of Being Busy via On Being
Think back to when you were 10-years-old, what were you doing? Splashing in the water, playing in the mud, or chasing your friends? In 2014 Omid Safi, director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center, wrote a post about the problem with parenting today. He said we make kids so busy with sports and arts, that there’s no time for random play. As a kid, I’d feel the front door swing behind me as I left in the morning, and I wouldn’t open it again until dinner—mom and dad wouldn’t worry about where I was.
Safi introduces a concept that’s practiced in most Muslim cultures when you want to ask people how they’re doing. In Arabic, you ask, “Kayf haal-ik?” Or in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal? Haal is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, ‘how is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?’ When I ask, ‘how are you?’ that is really what I want to know.”
I find when I ask people, “how are you?” often the response is “I’m so busy.” So to Safi’s point, we’re doing more, rather than feeling more. With one question, Safi invites us to connect more deeply with our family, friends, and teams. It’s a question I’ve been asking people lately, and it’s incredible how people respond...there’s usually a pause to start.
Say Your Truths And Seek Them In Others, A TEDWomen 2016 Talk by Elizabeth Lesser, a wellness specialist
Elizabeth Lesser’s story is a beautiful anecdote to how to live with truth and encourage others to do the same. In a recent TEDWomen talk, Lesser recalls her first career as a home-birth midwife and shares three lessons that the job taught her: one—uncover your soul; two—when things get difficult or painful, try to stay open, and three—every now and then, step off your hamster wheel into deep time. Lesser says these lessons served her the most when she took on the toughest job of all: her sister came out of remission from a rare blood cancer, and she needed a bone marrow transplant; Lesser turned out to be her match.
Before the surgery, Lesser wanted to resolve hard feelings with her sister. She felt they needed to go through an emotional process of putting aside pride and defensiveness to make way for soul-baring and truth-telling. So, they went to therapy together. As Lesser tells it, in an entertaining and moving speech, her blood was going to be in her sister’s body after all.
Boniface Mwangi, photojournalist and activist, @bonifacemwangi
Boniface Mwangi is an award-winning Kenyan photojournalist and activist. Mwangi, 34, was recognized for his activism when he took photos of post-election violence that hit Kenya in 2007. His TEDGlobal talk, The Day I Stood Up Alone, is one of the most watched TED talks in the organization’s history and laid the foundation of his work today. He wanted to protest against the corruption in Kenya, so with his friends, he planned to stand up and heckle during a mass public meeting. When the moment came, that’s when Mwangi stood alone and his life work began.
Mwangi’s story, much like the work of Vulnerability Researcher Brene Brown, shows us why we need to brave the wilderness alone, if this path means we’ll maintain our integrity.
The Mayor of Ballarat by Micky Todiwala
I’m always intrigued by stories that show a different perspective on life. This 2018 film vignette was released a few weeks ago on Vimeo and follows the true story and character of Rocky Novak, the only person living in the ghost town of Ballarat, California—Novak describes his life in the town as the caretaker, mayor, sheriff, judge, and undertaker.
I’m completely fascinated by this man’s story—it’s an example of stepping outside of your bubble to see how other people are living. Rocky lives on his own in a ghost town and it’s what makes him happy. He says, “you’re your own boss, and your own person. The strangest thing I’ve seen out here is people. I get to do what I want to do. That’s why I like it out there.” Watching this video, I kind of thought of Rocky as his own entrepreneur—he’s creating and building a life he wants, in a town that gives visitors a unique experience, if they decide to make the trek.
A lot of us don’t spend enough time on our own, as a means to reflect on who we are and the life we want to live. While Rocky’s lifestyle is an extreme example, it’s an eye-opening perspective to show us that we can do anything we want in life, if we listen to our inner voice.
Storyteller Jay Shetty recently posted this question to his followers on Instagram. In a long chain of responses, people shared:
In times where we feel diminished or defeated, it’s positive to read responses from others to remind yourself of what you’re capable of achieving. Like Omid Safi’s question about how our hearts feel, Shetty also asks us to stop and think about what we’re learning about life and our role in it.