by David Truman

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Integrity is the key to a good life. Destiny and well-being depend on it. Our confidence, our openness to love and intimacy, our ability to stay close to God, all come and go according to how well we follow our hearts.

In integrity we live; without it we die. Being untrue to your heart will destroy your life, and create your own personal hell. But if you follow your heart, it will create heaven on earth for you. Each moment in life, each choice, is a fork in the road. Which way will we go? Where will we end up? It depends on how well we obey our hearts.

In the chart below, you can see how your integrity (or lack thereof) shapes your destiny.

The fork in the road

When we violate our own feelings about what's right and what we should be doing, we shut down, and turn away from happiness, love, and all the most beautiful things in life -- we just don't think beauty fits us well, so we reject it. But when we follow our hearts and our conscience, we open up to life, and let it flood in.

You can see it in the lives of everyone you know. When a person does wrong -- unless they decide to fix it -- they will quickly distance themselves from everyone they love. They no longer want to be happy, because it just doesn't seem fitting. And if you reach out to them in such a compressed state, you will have a hard time getting through.

On the other hand, when a person is living rightly and beautifully, they become bright and happy. They are outgoing. They want to talk. They want to relate closely with people. They become permeable to love; and they become robust on the basis of receiving love and exchanging love in helpful, meaningful, uplifting ways.

Integrity determines how open we are to love, and God, and good; and that's why it is so important. Because in openness, everything is allowed to live, but in closedness, everything is condemned to die. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and it all begins with integrity.

"To thine own self be true" ends the destructive cycle that is put in motion when we ignore our heart's own feelings.

What we feel is important is what matters

Of course, not all negative actions are equally consequential, and neither are all positive actions. How strongly an action or choice affects your destiny depends on how important it is to you. If it is crucial to your heart, then it is crucial. No matter if it seems trivial to others, no matter if it would be called unimportant by religion or culture.

There could be something no one else has ever heard of, or has any concern about whatsoever; but it's that by which you live or die, that by which you are condemned or praised within your own heart.

If a person sincerely believes they should become more disciplined, they will feel terrible if they don't. It will hang over their head like a dark cloud, changing the tone of their life for the worse -- even if nobody else cares about it. For that individual there is no greater condemnation than that which they would visit upon themselves for having betrayed their own heart.

That shows exactly how personal this really is. It makes no difference what anyone else says; a person is condemned only by their own hand.

So when you get to Heaven's gate, and Peter asks you, "What accounting would you like to give of yourself? Is there anything you've done you're not proud of?" and you give your account, he will then ask, "And what do you think is the significance of that? Would you go ahead and jump into hell for it? Do you think that would be an appropriate destiny? If so, there it is. Jump."

Nobody would push you. You would jump because you didn't want to be loved. You would jump because you wanted to hide. You see, no one would have to do anything about it; it's all up to you. You would jump on your own account.

There is no condemnation
other than one's own self-condemnation.

That, in fact, is what we do every day: We either jump into hell, because we feel bad about ourselves, or our hearts soar into heaven, due to the happiness and elevation we feel from a right and loving life. Or perhaps we hang in purgatory, because we are dissatisfied with our lives, though not dramatically guilt-ridden.

And that's the long and short of our entire existence. We are condemned or resurrected by our own fidelity to ourselves; by our integrity, as measured only by our own heart standards. No other measure stands.

Self-condemnation: a dirty trick

But in truth, self-condemnation is never appropriate. It is a dirty trick of the ego, designed to bring one down. It is not God's will that we should so harshly condemn ourselves. Only the ego would interpret our wrongdoing to mean that we are bad, irredeemable, wretched creatures. Only the ego would respond to guilt by shutting down, and dropping out of life. The spirit knows better. The spirit recognizes that no matter what we do, we are good, and we are capable of good. And when we see that we have done wrong, the spirit would jump to correct it, and to heal it; rather than steep in shame and self-hatred.

We don't need to condemn ourselves. But it is good and godly that we condemn our wrong actions, and that we reject badness. That is our Divine sensitivity at work. So, this is not a clarion call to throw away the power of discernment; only to realize that we are not what we do. Our actions do not change the person we essentially are. They do not rid us of the basic goodness and sensitivity that God placed in our hearts. So, we can always renounce bad, and turn to the good that our hearts always call us to.

Discernment still stands

In this "brave new world," many people understand the idea that they are good no matter what they have done. But few understand that that does not eliminate the need for morality. The New Agers boldly proclaim: "We are free of these ideas of right and wrong, good and evil. We are good children of God, no matter what." To that I would respond: "Yes, you are good children of God no matter what. But if you don't live that, what good does it do for anybody? Do you feel good about that?"

It is true integrity to condemn the actions your heart hates -- actions that violate the law of love, which is your heart's law. Those actions should be condemned, because they are hurtful, and they are not true to who you really are.

Two apparent problems with "to thine own Self be true"

1. What about God? When I say, "It doesn't matter what anybody else thinks. You have to do what your heart says is right," one question that may arise is: "But what about God? What about the promptings God gives in every moment? Don't you need to surrender to those in order to be right?"

It may seem like a contradiction, but the conflict is overcome when you realize that God's Heart is your own heart. God gave you His Heart. Your sensibilities and sensitivities are no different than God's. When you feel moved to help someone in need, when you feel guilty for doing wrong, when your heart responds lovingly to another human being, that is God in you.

So, to do right by God is to do right by your own heart. God is not some external authority, telling you what to do. God is inside you, and not different from you. You are made from God.

Thus, there is no difference between satisfying God, and satisfying your own heart. The two are the same. Isn't that beautiful?

2. What about others? Many people think that to "follow your heart" means to be whimsical, inconsiderate, selfish, and non-committal. But tell me honestly: how do you feel about whimsical, flakey people?

Following your heart has been given a bad name in this world. In truth, no human heart would ever approve of selfish, whimsical living. Like I said, your heart is the Heart of God. The very Heart that would rail against the injustices of the world, that would nag you when you are letting somebody down, that would inspire you to do right by others.

People who say they are "following their heart" when they are actually living selfishly are confused. They are ignoring their heart. They have become experts at suppressing the cries of their heart for rightness, love, commitment, loyalty, reliability -- all qualities that the human/Divine heart values highly.

So, once again, there is no conflict. As long as you are in line with your own heart, you will do right by God and all others.

"To thine own self be true,
and it must follow, as the night follows day,
thou canst not then be false to any man."

-- William Shakespeare                  

Life is an integrity test

So that's it. Now you understand the whole thing. The entire evolutionary career is an integrity test. Everything else is absolutely irrelevant. Until heaven and earth pass away, not a single letter will be removed from the law of your heart -- which is the law of love and rightness. That's all that counts in life. So, be true to yourself; and all will be well.

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