Learning about my own integrity
I remember saying over and over again, my God, he has no integrity! None!
Now, years later, I know that any negative thought I have about anyone else is a ready-made piece of advice for me. So, in this instance, I look at moments when I was out of integrity.
It was a couple of days after my 40th birthday. A box was on the table, unwrapped. A birthday gift for me. And inside were 3 long sleeved shirts, the kind you wear to protect yourself from sun. Men’s shirts. Practical. Expendable. He said, "Happy Birthday. I bought them for you a while ago and was waiting for an occasion to give them to you.”
Three days earlier he had said in frustration after a long discussion, “I don’t love you anymore. I’m done.” And he left. He had never said or done that before. I didn’t reply at the time, for it surprised me. And, I was hurt. Because what can you say to a man you have loved for 15 years who says that?
Not wanting to spend my 40th birthday alone in our house, I spent 2 days away from the home we shared, away from memories. I cried as I walked though botanic gardens, ate Indian food and got a massage. He didn't call.
And when I returned home, I was genuinely surprised to see him there, sitting at the table, waiting for me. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I said that. I didn’t mean it.” He held me and apologized over and over again.
Later, I found out that he had spent those 2 days in the arms of another woman. But I didn’t know that at the time. I just knew that his apology was sincere and that it was time to find a counselor. Something was terribly wrong.
His gift was on the table. 3 shirts.
The gift said everything to me: I don’t really care. Not really. I’m just going through the motions.
I knew this somewhere far off in my body and brain. Though it was subtle. It just felt shitty. And it was clouded by the appreciation that he had given me anything at all. And overwhelmed by the training that one must express gratitude for every gift received.
So, I said thank you. To be nice. To keep from hurting his feelings. I thanked him.
And, it was that point that I was out of integrity.
It’s an uncomfortable situation, to be sure, to be slightly hurt by a gift. To feel it as hollow. And, if I had been fully aware and integrous, I would have said, kindly, “I sense your ambivalence, and it makes me feel unimportant.” It would have landed like a ton of bricks. And that would have led to a much harder conversation.
But I didn’t. To be nice.
We were both out of integrity.