Integrity is not consistency

Last week I talked about preaching being more important than practice.

Part of the reason the phrase “practice what you preach” is so popular is because we humans are tuned in to disparities between what one extols and what one exhibits. In a heart beat we know if someone is saying one thing and doing another. We have an intuitive awareness of consistency.

When someone says one thing and does another, it comes across as a character flaw. One that we seek, automatically, to correct. We do that by pointing out instances where the other person didn’t exhibit the extolled behavior, as if we have something to lord over them.

And sometimes, the opposite happens. In trying to understand what one is extolling, we raise questions about their past behavior. We don’t intend to point out a character flaw, but to the person extolling a new approach, it comes across as an attack of their character because they feel it is a flaw within themselves, a lack of consistency.

One way or another, as we evolve our thinking, we’re likely to see a flaw in our past self. That could be because of our own insecurities or the insecurities of those around us.

I think a great example of this is in politics, we obsess over candidates that change their minds. As if a politician must never absorb what they learn along the way and come to new conclusions. That’s ludicrous. And yet, Hillary Clinton is criticized for not being pro gay marriage soon enough. Donald Trump is questioned for being pro-choice when he stands on stage claiming to be pro-life.

Certainly in politics we’re all afraid we’re being told what we want to hear. That aside, people legitimately evolve. We all change our opinions. It would be scary to find someone who doesn’t change, substantially, over their lifetime. That would mean they aren’t learning.

What we need to do, is stop seeing change as a character flaw. We shouldn’t judge who we were in the past. And we should’t judge who other people were in the past. We should listen to who we are now, who we want to be, and who other people are now, or who they want to be. And we should encourage each other to aim to be what each of us preaches, even if we don’t yet practice it.

Consistency is overrated, it’s not a necessity for integrity. Change is never a character flaw. Stop telling yourself that and be careful not to insinuate it to others.

This is something you have to be intentional about because your brain is hardwired to call people out, we’re wired to put people down so we an elevate our own status. That’s a misfiring indeed because nobody is going to starve for being kicked out of the group in this age.