Integrity: Not Just Talking the Talk

Tags: integrity,  pagan ethics, faith, right and wrong

I occasionally go down the rabbit hole and end up spending vast amounts of time on WitchVox. It’s a great site if you haven’t been there. Just don’t let the old coding and décor fool you. It’s got a wealth of information if you can muddle your way through its horrible organization, or lack thereof. The other day I was reading a 101 article about integrity and it got me to thinking about how important integrity is to us both as pagans and as people.

Integrity should be an important part of all of our lives. However, we know that there are many people who live far outside this.  It seems like no matter what culture, religion, or group I go to join, there are those who just can’t seem to grasp this concept.  To me integrity is important in the people I want in my life, the people I trust. However, it is also important to a witch.

I have been asked by many friends how I became a witch or how one can begin the journey down this path. I tell them that there isn’t just one way and that all I can do is share with them what I’ve learned.  The vast majority of which is how to discern the whey from the chaff….or the useful from the destructive. And a lot of that has to do with integrity.

Now whether you are pagan or not, think about the following questions and answers.

What is Integrity?

Well according to the good ol’ Oxford Dictionary is means “The condition of having no part or element taken away or wanting: undivided or unbroken state; material wholeness, completely, entirety.” It also means “The condition of not being marred or violated; unimpaired or uncorrupted; a condition of soundness.” I like to view it as having your shit together (well as much as any of us can).

Why is it important?

There is a reason many traditions ask a new follower to take a year and a day before they decide if this is the path for them. First, they want to get to know you. Second, they want you to get to know yourself in the context of the craft. Three, they don’t want you to make any rash decisions. And finally, they want people who aren’t going to bail on them for stupid reasons or because they suddenly changed their mind. They plan on investing time on you if you stick around.

The same thing goes for a solitary but for different reasons. In this case, you want to make sure it isn’t a waste of your time. You want to make sure you know what you are getting into. You want to protect yourself. Personally, I think it’s easier to understand this from the traditions perspective, but that is what you are doing when you take a year and a day as a solitary.

The truth is that before you can truly study the craft you have to know yourself. You have to be able to judge what is right and wrong for you. In the context of the craft this means learning the fundamentals and seeing if you can live with yourself in the craft. Just jumping into everything else only muddies the waters and, if you did choose incorrectly, you may end up harming yourself from an emotional/intellectual perspective.

Many of the problems we have in the craft today would not exist were it not for people who decided just to jump in.  Or maybe they tried to reinvent it to suit their purposes. Either way, it isn’t good for the individual or the community as a whole.

The importance of a promise

Without integrity we cannot make promises to ourselves. It makes us more likely to fail in our endeavors and more likely to harm others. This makes it more likely for that individual lacking integrity to end up violating the principle of An It Harm None.  Part of choosing this path involves thinking about what you are and are not willing to do in your life. Does that harm none mean that you have to be wiser in your words and actions? Does it mean that you have to stop eating meats or anything produced from an animal? Does it mean that you need to do more charitable work?  What does it mean in the context of someone attacking you and your own? Does it mean that you do not have the right to protect yourself?

You have to consider your values in the context of An It Do No Harm.  The problem with people lacking in integrity is that they cannot make a promise to follow something because they don’t think through what all that promise could mean. They realize that they cannot fulfill that promise because it’s not how they are willing to live.

There is a reason our ancestors or predecessors were known as the Wise Ones.  They were healers who helped others.  They were leaders who did their best to make the right decisions. They walked the walk and talked the talk of doing no harm to others. They made promises and they kept them. If we want to honor their path and not just stamp on it with muddy boots, we have to make the same considerations.

How to: Integrity

The first part of integrity is being able to figure out what is right and wrong. It’s a philosophical question you are going to face no matter what your religion is. It’s also a choice we have to make for ourselves.  Personally, I don’t believe in absolute right and wrong for the most part. As a general rule I think it’s wrong to kill someone, but I don’t think that a parent defending loved ones from someone trying to kill them is wrong, even if it results in a horrific tragedy.  In my mind there are things that are more right than others and there are shades of grey.

The point is that we have to create our own quotient of what is right and wrong. We also have to be able to review and admit when our perspective was wrong. It’s not something that will happen overnight. It’s something that takes time. This is a religion based in personal responsibility and personal power. If you can’t own it and be honest about what you’re doing, right or wrong, you need to walk away now.

Second, you have to be willing to do the right thing no matter what. If you have discerned that (only as an example) GMO’s are against the natural ways of life, then you have to fight for that. If the coven you have grown to love wants to do a spell that you take issue with, you have to stand against that, even if it could lead to you leaving the group. You have to be willing to rise against peer pressure among many other things.

You have to decide if your place in the group is more important than your values. If that group is more important than your own integrity, then you’ve already compromised yourself and risk doing harm by ignoring the harm of others.  To me, I could keep the friends and disagree, but I couldn’t be a part of that group anymore. It would be tainted and there would be a good chance that I would be faced with the same moral temptations again.  Part of integrity is testing whether or not you can live up to your own moral expectations.

As a side note, ignoring your own moral values can harm you. It creates a division within your own mind that can be detrimental to your own health. A lot of people are in counseling because of their own inconsistencies. I know that I have been there in the past myself. So, when considering these issues also think about the damage you could be doing to yourself.

Finally, you have to keep your commitments to yourself and others. We are our actions. People judge us and create perceptions of who we are based on those actions. They are important. We have to openly declare where we stand and stand by it.  If you can’t stand by your commitments, how can you commit yourself to a deity? Or even to the divine as a generalization?

This is a religion about service and it’s hard to serve anything without integrity.

Integrity vs. the Craft.

Okay so this section is very much a take on the final section of the article that inspired this one. The link will be at the end of the post. I want to show how so much of what we do is related to integrity. How without integrity we cannot live up to the ideas of this faith. This is a faith that is about service and respecting not only the earth, but all who reside on it. It takes integrity.  It takes knowing yourself and understanding your own perspective of what that means. This is a part of our personal ethics and dictates how we interact with others.

We are not about power for ourselves, we are about empowering others. Yes we use magick to make our own lives better, but we also should be using it to help those who cannot, to empower them. There are too many who act as though magick is for only their own personal gain. It is about helping those in need.  It isn’t about pulling others down so we can climb; it is about building others up and creating new and healthier systems for our world.

It is not about getting more, but giving more. Yes, most of us do spells to help ourselves, though we tend to think carefully about what we do so as to not cause harm. However, in the craft we believe that what you put out comes back to you and that goes way beyond spells and prayers. It is about actions. The more good we put out into the world, the more good we find in our lives. The opposite is also true.

It is not about changing other around you, but changing and growing within yourself. You have to grow to connect with those around you. You cannot and should not expect the world to bow to you.

It is not about wealth, it is about sharing your wealth with the community. I’m not saying to go out and shower money on people. I’m saying that we aren’t here to make money off what we believe and do. It is fine to write a book, it is wrong to extort people by overcharging for that book or any other services you may render.  I understand making a living, but the craft should be far more about how you can help others and that will give you a different, better kind of wealth.

To quote my inspiration: It is about keeping promises, going the extra mile, doing what is correct and for the good of all. It is about uprightness, honor, truth, healing, giving and service.

 

It is about honoring the God and Goddess. Not materialism. Not ANYTHING else. 

 

To do all of these things we have to be committed. WE have to have integrity. We have to have a heart and love for others in the world. Yes, integrity is important. Not only for those in the Craft, but for anyone who values love, respect, and world harmony. We all have places where we can improve, but it really does start with knowing ourselves so that we can live under our own integrity.

Blessed Be.

Ps the article that inspired this one is called Witchcraft 101: Integrity….Making that Choice.

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