Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


High Stakes:

Integrity Seriously

Berkeley, California, USA

May 21, 2011



This essay, High Stakes: Integrity Seriously, is the third in a group of sixteen on Integrity: I am indebted to Victoria Hamilton-Rivers who contributed material for this conversation.



Upping the ante  in integrity doesn't make my life easier. Being in integrity makes my life work. But it doesn't necessarily make my life easier. In fact it's just the opposite. There's a lot more to keep my attention on, more irons in the fire, more balls in the air when I up the ante in integrity. I'm not saying it's hard  to be in integrity. I'm saying there's a lot to pay attention to if I'm to stay in integrity. That's because integrity, at least initially, is in the details.

Expanding on this, my integrity is in the details of what I speak. Yet it's not confined to the truth  of what I speak. It's not confined to the accuracy  of what I speak either. Neither is it confined to keeping the promises I make. My integrity is in the details of who I am as my word. To be specific, my integrity is in my relationship with who I am as my word.

Integrity is a high stakes game. The higher my integrity, the more Life shows up consistent with my higher integrity. The more Life shows up consistent with my higher integrity, the more situations and circumstances I take on in which people get to know me as someone who's word can be honored as who I am. The more I'm known as someone who's word can be honored as who I am, the more there's an adverse impact  if I don't maintain the same level of integrity (or higher)  with which I got into these situations and circumstances in the first place.

So the bigger I play, there's an even bigger adverse impact if I don't keep playing even bigger. This is something worth noting: if I don't keep on playing bigger and bigger, if I don't keep on upping the ante in integrity, it ends up adversely impacting the people around me ever more.

If I don't up the ante in integrity and as a result there's an adverse impact on the people around me, I'll be responsible for it. I'll be responsible for commitments I break. I'll be responsible for promises I don't keep. But that's not a way out  of upping the ante in integrity. Rather, it's a way of taking responsibility for it when I don't.

Well ... "So what?!"  is a great response to this particular observation, "So what?!" Why bother?". And really, there's no need  for me to bother either to up the ante in integrity or to take responsibility for it when I don't. It doesn't matter. It's all empty and meaningless  anyway. If it's all empty and meaningless, why bother with integrity?

Be clear you don't  need to bother with integrity. You can't be in integrity in response to a need. You can't use integrity to be right. Being in integrity doesn't make you a better person. You can't make a living selling  your integrity (as you can selling your blood to a blood bank). So what good is integrity? And the answer is: not much. By the standards with which we ordinarily measure and evaluate things, integrity has very low value.

<aside>

The critical context here is "by the standards with which we ordinarily  measure and evaluate things" ... integrity has very low value. This doesn't mean integrity has very low value. The context is decisive (as Werner Erhard may have said).

<un-aside>

However, none of the above is integrity anyway - at least not what I'm distinguishing here as integrity. What I'm distinguishing here as integrity is being in a relationship with who I am as my word. And the only good reason for me to be in a relationship with who I am as my word is simply to be in a relationship with who I am as my word. If it's any more than this, if it's anything other than  this, if there's an in order to, I assert it's not integrity.

What makes integrity a high stakes game is I'm the only person powerful enough to generate it and maintain it for myself. If I don't have integrity, I can't blame anyone else. If I don't generate it for myself, I can't buy  it from a store. If I'm out of integrity, there's no one I can turn to for it. And if there were  someone to whom I could turn when I'm out of integrity, they wouldn't be able to provide it for me or give it back to me.

When I up the ante in integrity, I do so by ... my ... Self. When I up the ante in integrity, each chip  I stake in the game is worth my entire life - or, said more accurately, each chip I stake in the game is  my entire life.

That's a high stakes game. Upping the ante in integrity with chips worth my entire life  is a high stakes game. In a high stakes game you can win big. In a high stakes game you can also lose  big. Integrity is a high stakes game. Yet it's the only  game in town. Not only that, but it's the only game in town worth playing.

Seriously.



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