As I get older, The idea of living a life of integrity is starting to fade. I miss being “green” and wanting to do the right thing all the time.
But I know that that’s not how the world works. Why is that? Because of greed, selfishness and ego. This is what drives our world.
Integrity, according to Webster Dictionary, means a firm adherence to an exceptional code of moral or artistic values.
As a child I was always concerned about doing the right thing, making sure everyone got their fair share. But even then, I noticed the lack of fairness and integrity in my fellow students, teachers and other adults. I saw the most talented athletes get chosen first for sports teams at gym and given the most floor time. Students that wanted to participate were left to the sidelines. And I’m not even talking about organized school sports. Teachers spent the most time with students who were already very smart, had tutoring and helicopter parents to support their performance. So children who had less were expected to produce more to keep up.
I always thought adulthood would be a lot easier when dealing with moral problems. I thought people are honest. Naively, I wondered why would adults lie? I had thought that my fellow students were opportunistic liars and cheaters because they were immature. But the reality is that these children would grow up to be adults who continued to lack important characteristics like honesty, integrity and virtue. The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has a ring of truth.
The childhood version of me imagined that I would grow into an adult that was confident, sure, honest and willing to fight for what’s right but now I’m not sure I’ll ever be those things. Some days I can feel myself shrinking, barraged by the screams of people playing politics and those fighting for themselves.
From the time I was 20-25 years old, I was very optimistic. Truly believing that the world would sort itself out and that what’s right will prevail, but that’s not necessarily the truth. It feels like the older I get, the more “woke” I am about how things work.
I’ve been burned a few times. I’ve written a few posts on that.
From friends to work to even my landlord now. They’ve all burned me. When it comes to benefits, money and status, a sense of doing what’s right goes out the window.
I came to realize that there are people who will only interact with you when it benefits them financially, politically or socially. It was a hard pill to swallow, to realize that there were a lot of people who were disingenuous.
But I grew up.
And sometimes when I’m looking at a situation, I now think how can I profit from this, how can I benefit? I hate to admit it but I’m becoming one of those people who are selfish, egoistic and greedy. It’s almost like I can’t help it. Intrusive thoughts enter my mind like, if you don’t take advantage, someone else will or you have to take your share of the pie.
I’m ashamed because deep down I know these thoughts are wrong. I’ve grown to distrust other people to the point that I’m becoming untrustworthy and I hate that.
Am I growing up and becoming less naive? Or am I becoming jaded and callous?
If the young and optimistic version of me met 30 year old me today what would she say? She’d say I’m becoming everything she hates about this world and that I’ve given up. But fighting to keep my integrity and resolve to be an upright, unselfish human being sometimes feels like swimming against an impossible current.
I can count on my one hand the amount of people outside of my family who I respect for their character. Everyone else would easily resort to dishonesty if they knew they could benefit from it.
Maybe that’s why I have no friends… I just can’t accept a friendship that’s false.
So what to do?
I still think that being a good person is important. I want to hold on to that childish hope that as a human being we can care for the good of others without gaining anything for ourselves. Without even a few good people in our society, we’d be living in a literal hell where society is built on bullshit, lies, deception and selfishness.
The truth is I’ve met people with integrity and I hope others can look at me and see that I aim to be a person of good character as well.
So hopefully the child I knew isn’t as disappointed as I feel in myself sometimes. As I aim to be a person who’s better at standing up for what’s good and right for its own sake, I need to learn to not have such high expectations of other people.
Integrity and character matters because at the end of the day that’s all we have.
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