Authenticity and Integrity: Two Spiritual Pillars

Two years ago I asked prominent psychiatrist and bestselling author Peter Kramer to endorse my manuscript, Beyond Blue. I have been thinking about his response ever since. He told me that he no longer blurbs books, because to blurb a book would require him to real the entire thing, from cover to cover. He would not put his name on anything unless he did. And because he did this for so long, and read so many manuscripts that he didn’t like, endorsing became a painful and time-consuming exercise for him.

I came away astonished at his integrity.

I completely understand his rationale. He has a reputation to uphold. People like me read his words like the Bible, and place a substantial amount of trust in his judgment. He would be doing his readers a huge disservice by plastering his name on every paperback that came his way just to please an aspiring author like me or her publicist.

I respect the man even more (although I would have loved his blurb) because he is so authentic. He won’t say or write something unless he adamantly believes it. His opinions are consistent, no matter what the media is lobbying, or the messages proselytized by the pharmaceutical companies, or the shifting culture of the mental health word, depending on the favorite diagnosis of the year.

He has mastered the four words of advice for pursuing spiritual excellence that St. Francis de Sales preached: “Be you very well.”

Yeah, well I have a ways to go before I am up there with Peter Kramer. I won’t even get into my blurbing policy because it would make me look very smutty next to Kramer.

However, yesterday I moved an inch closer to integrity and authenticity, inspired by the saintliness of both Kramer and de Sales.

I decided to stop contributing articles to a site that had been publishing me for awhile. It’s a fresh, stylish zine that offers compelling articles and engaging essays. I have nothing against their content. But it simply wasn’t a good fit for me. Over the course of a few months, I felt like I was shoving my foot into platform high-heeled shoes, when I know full well that I am most comfortable in flats. I’m not provocative, controversial, or any of the qualities in a blogger that they were looking for. I try to be subtle, nuanced, and horribly honest – so honest that my prose comes off sounding at times confusing and neurotic … much like my brain. I try to stay away from black and white as much as I can, because I know that the majority of my recovery exists n the gray.

I remember being interviewed for the “Hannity & Colmes Show,” back when it aired on the Fox News Channel. The producer was grilling me on the topic of women’s ordination. I think I must have said, “I don’t know … I guess I see it both ways ….” a few too many times because, with an annoyed huff, he said, “You are way too wishy washy for our show … sorry,” and hung up.

I took it as the highest compliment. Yes! My therapy has paid off! I no longer suffer from zebra think! I have been cured!

I think Mother Nature has graciously endowed all of us with an “authenticity” alarm to keep us going in the right direction, but we are pretty good at pushing snooze, or setting three alarms like I do in the morning … and press snooze on all those. I’m getting better at identifying that sick-to-my-stomach feeling … the one in which you know that something is slightly off, that your integrity is hanging out the window like your dog’s head in the summer … but you kind of like the breeze so you keep it out there. And then bam! You hit a tree. (Or another dog’s head hanging out of the car next to you.)

However, when you work as hard as I do at staying honest with yourself, you can’t afford to hit too many trees. If you want to stay out of the hospital, it’s simply not an option.

Which really sucks.

Because integrity, it seems, is never convenient. Most of the time you have to sacrifice something you wanted … like extra change in your wallet, a nice byline, some cool platform high-heeled shoes. But that’s where you have to trust God. Because if you are doing the right thing, my guess is that He will take care of you. And you’ll be able to sleep very soundly at night, like Peter Kramer does.

Image courtesy of njit.edu.

Originally published on Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com

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