Years ago, Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a book in which he uses the following working definition for the word integrity: “the courage to meet the demands of reality.” It’s a business-y kind of book, not really my thing, but I have always been struck by his definition of integrity. The courage to meet the demands of reality.
Not run. Not hide. Not snivel. Not panic. Not freeze. Not escape. But, instead, meet. Show up and be present and meet today, with whatever it holds.
Integrate instead of disintegrate.
I’ve been thinking about that lately.
I’ve been praying and asking God for specific guidance on Luke and Lane’s school for the fall. They will be starting Kindergarten, and unexpectedly we have a myriad of really good options in front of us: public, private, charter. And we have multiple good options within each of those categories. I guess it’s a good problem to have, but this is a total trigger for someone like me who gets a little desperate and crazy when it comes to her kids.
We have friends at each of the schools on our list, all of whom have sold us on why their school is the best. Hands down.
I don’t know what decision you’re trying to make today, but I know that life is full of big decisions. Moments that create trajectory in a certain direction. Rarely are those decisions and that momentum and that trajectory un-doable, but still, we want to make the “right” decision the first time. We want to feel at peace with where we’ve landed and we don’t want to have to go through the pain of undoing something that we’ve done. Right?
So, with all this being true, it’s easy to get stuck.
I borrowed some words from Scripture and turned the whole mess over to God: “I need wisdom, God, so I’m asking for some.” And here is the only thing I keep hearing from him: “Leeana, do not make a decision based on fear.”
When I live out of fear, I disintegrate. When I live out of freedom, I integrate. False self. True self.
But, hey, easy for you to say, God. These are my precious babies. Of course, I’m afraid. In fact, I started thinking about all the things I’m afraid of when it comes to sending Luke and Lane off to Kindergarten. By the end of the list, I see how sending them off to Kindergarten has somehow been confused with sending them off to the lion’s den in my own crazy mind. And I see that, perhaps, I might just want to listen to that word from God. Don’t let fear rule. Don’t let fear be the impetus. Don’t let fear be your guiding principle.
Instead, what decision would you make, Leeana, if you felt perfect freedom?
I am still pulling that apart, to be honest. But when we think about what we would do, if we allowed ourselves the freedom, we learn a lot about ourselves, don’t we. Who we’re trying to please. Our fears. Our traumas. Our own stories that we’re projecting onto our kids. Our assumptions and generalizations. Our places of pride. Where we do and don’t trust our own intuitions.
Sometimes having the courage to meet the demands of reality means we move forward, even imperfectly, and fight against the temptation to stay stuck. We fight against the wallowing. We fight against the paralysis. Somehow. Some way.
We get up and brush our teeth. We go for a walk. We take a vitamin. We read one Psalm. Or even just one line of one Psalm. We say a very simple prayer, like: God, I need you. We get moving in one way or another. I think this is very profound.
We decide that we will have the courage to meet the demands of reality. We decide to integrate instead of disintegrate.
My dear friend from Bahrain, Jean, told me this story:
I had just birthed my first baby. I had just lost my mother unexpectedly to cancer. My husband was deployed. I was hardly making it. I was down on myself. I was just down. My friend called me and I explained to her how hard things were. She said to me, “Jean, are you getting out of bed each morning? Are you feeding that precious baby boy? Are you caring for his needs? Are you getting yourself to your therapist’s office? Are you fighting for your marriage even in the midst of a deployment?”
“Yes,” I told her.
“Then, Jean,” she says, “here’s what I want you to do. You get up every morning and you go look at yourself in your bathroom mirror and you say to yourself, ‘Jean Gibbons, you are one bad ass bitch.’ You got it?”
And Jean did. She got up every morning of that awful season of life and she looked herself in the mirror and she said, “Jean Gibbons, you are one bad ass bitch.”
And it changed everything.
Not a single circumstance changed, but those foul-mouthed, raw, primal words conjured a bit of gumption and strength that she assumed had been buried by all the grief and loss.
Those words gave her the courage to meet the demands of reality. And, they were a reminder that however wobbly she felt, she was doing it. She was getting up and getting out of bed and she was facing the reality of her life head on.
That’s the kind of woman I want to be. One who is not guided by fear. One who does not react to life in order to appease my fear. But one who acknowledges the fear—welcomes it even—and then moves forward in spite of being afraid.
Now, go get ‘em.
What decisions would I make differently if I weren’t afraid?
What do I really want?
What’s holding me back from what I really want?
If I felt perfect freedom, what would I do?
What is God’s invitation to me today?