I lied to a student last week.
A few weeks ago, I told him that I’d reach out to a couple contacts to see if there are summer internships available that he could apply for. I hadn’t done it yet, and when he asked about it last week, I told him, “Yes, but I haven’t heard back yet.”
I don’t lie. It’s something I’m proud about, especially when I can tell my kids or my students that I don’t lie. "You can trust me: I don’t lie."
Except that I did lie.
Though I felt a bit ashamed afterward, mostly I was feeling shocked. After having integrity be one of my main commitments for a while, how could a lie come out so easily?
I told myself a decent and valid enough reason for lying. (Don't we always do that?)
This is how I was operating:
Integrity = Acting without integrity + A good reason
We have "good" reasons for acting without integrity, and we give weight and significance to our reasons.
The real reason I lied to the student was that I wanted to avoid looking bad. I felt ashamed for not already having reached out to my contacts, and I wanted to avoid feeling more ashamed by telling the student.
We are hard-wired to survive, and that includes our social survival. It makes sense that we sometimes consider it life-or-death that we might be shunned or even simply feel shame.
This 40,000-year-old self-protection mechanism is always with us, and it's why integrity isn’t something we can ever have. Instead, integrity is something we have the opportunity to generate in each moment. Integrity as a choice and integrity as a way of being, moment by moment.
Here's the accurate form of the equation above:
Integrity = Acting with integrity
The morning after lying to my student, I wrote my two contacts about internship opportunities. I then apologized to the student - I apologized for lying and for disrespecting him (and myself) by doing that. Then I recommitted to being honest and to being an adult who acts with integrity.
Thanks so much for reading. ❤️