Choices. Integrity. Words. Truth. Communicating what’s real. Doing what’s right. It’s not always easy to stand up to those who are on other sides of the issues. It’s not always fair to be the one to have to tell the truth. And sometimes, even when it’s a no-brainer… you will look around at all those who said they had your back, and when everyone else is walking away, you stand alone.
These are every day occurences, whether we notice them or not. Choices begin with getting out of bed, and move on to what we wear, to if we eat breakfast and end with what time we go to bed and whether we sleep on our back or stomach or side… We make them every day. Some completely inconsequential. Others… life-changing. We choose to stand up for what we believe in… or we crumble under the pressure of those who don’t stand at all. We choose to be real and speak true, and be strong in the face of weakness. It is our choice that matters. It is our heart that leads us.
I was faced with a moment in middle school that seemed quite insignificant at the time, but later in life proved to be just the beginning of my sometimes too outspoken-self. There was a new girl that year, 7th grade… we will call her “Cass.” Cass transferred in from another school and didn’t know anyone. Kids being usual bullying kids picked on her because she was new. I am sure she was not happy with the choice her parents made for her that first day in a new school. At one point, in 5th period, I remember she left the room crying. I immediately stood up and asked the teacher if I could go make sure she was ok. I don’t know why, but my heart felt like it was the right thing to do. I walked out of the room before I even got an answer. She was sitting alone, in the stairwell sobbing. I sat next to her and put my arm around her shoulder. I didn’t say a word. Just wanted to let her know someone was there. I made a choice. I went back in the classroom and told the two boys who were picking on her to knock it off. Probably the first time I stood up to someone like that in front of others.
And even if I stood alone, I would do it the same everytime. I learned a long time ago what integrity was. One of my favorite quotes is by Oprah… “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” Integrity is who you are behind closed doors, when you don’t get the credit and the spotlight isn’t on. Integrity is what you say when no one is there to hear it and back you up. Integrity is doing the right thing… no matter what. Integrity is believing in your heart what is right… and following through with action. Integrity needs no introduction, or explanation. It just is. And when you let your heart lead, you get to the center of what that is.
I know some people think that if you don’t do what your mind tells you to do, you are not acting rationally. I say that’s an excuse for not wanting to get hurt. I ask those same people to think of some of the greatest leaders throughout history… Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Bono… I am sure there are not many people you can find who don’t know these names. And why… Why do we list the same kinds of people every time we talk about great leaders and great people…? They have integrity. They have led with their heart. And people followed.
Every day, we make choices. Some completely inconsequential. Others… life-changing.
Regardless of impact or outcome, do what real leaders do…
Go with your heart…always.