Integrity is about being a man or woman of your word. Having your life be an embodiment of your deepest values, in other words, walking your talk. Keeping agreements is an important part of integrity. Integrity is the foundation of good relationships and a successful life. If you don’t keep agreements it will damage and seriously diminish your level of integrity. You can honor your values through your words and actions to live in a way that is vitally important, be a leader, and be an important person in your work. If you don’t keep your agreements consistently, it contaminates everything.
For those who overcommit and then have to break their agreements, a big part of what drives them to live this way is not just that they are pursuing the stimulation and gratification that comes from engaging in exciting projects, but the process of doing so allows them to isolate themselves from feeling the shame of inadequacy and inferiority.
As long as there are people who are insolating them from the consequences of their broken agreements, they don’t have to face how they are letting people down and causing harm. When other people protect them, they are shielded from feeling shame. Like the circus clown that follows the elephant carrying a shovel and big dustpan to pick up the poop, they can have family members and employees clean up after them. They have a system of support that enables them to continue with their pattern of irresponsibility.
They need to hit bottom to feel the shame of disappointing others, how they have hurt them, and what the consequences of that distrust have been. Their terror is that when they see how untrustworthy they are they will lose everyone. The reason they are so convinced that they will lose everyone is a projection of their mind. Their own response, if they perceive someone to be untrustworthy, would be to let the relationship go.
The paradox is: that which they are committed to not feeling is the very thing that will activate their recovery. They have to be broken open by the shame. People want desperately to avoid shame. But shame can save your life if you experience it directly in the environment of support. Feeling the shame begins the process of breaking down that becomes the breakthrough. The ongoing public confessional allows forgiveness from other people.
They may say, “You have been an asshole. It’s about time you came down off your arrogant high horse thinking that the normal rules that apply to others didn’t apply to you. Shut up and suck it up. You have hurt me, and I am not going anywhere.” Such statements may sound harsh, but are examples of wrathful compassion. The perpetrator’s feelings of self-loathing can diminish over time, but it takes longer than most people believe it should take. Most people haven’t developed the self-discipline to engage in listening to judgment and criticism without reacting.
Paying penance is accepting the pain and anger that people have, but have withheld because they have had too much resignation. You must not say one word in your defense or else you close down the healing the process. You had better make sure that when you say you want to hear the truth from people who have been harmed by your actions and words, that you are 100% positive that you will receive that truth non-defensively and with deep gratitude. If you don’t, you’re finished not only with that person, but the word will get out. People will know that you are not trustworthy. It will be the ultimate confirmation of what they have believed about you.
Forgiveness is not enough. The lying must stop. Forgiveness is not the issue in fact it can keep you from feeling the shame they have caused. Once the people they have betrayed receive their shame, redemption can occur. It is the interaction that heals. People who have caused harm to others through their broken agreements need to suffer. That suffering is what is necessary to open their hearts and to experience true contrition, which is a requirement for inner transformation.