We work so hard to get somewhere, to realize a dream, to arrive at some destination, that we often forget that though some satisfaction may be waiting at the end of our endurance and effort, there is great and irreplaceable aliveness in the steps along the way.

Mark NepoWe are always approaching integrity, never arriving at it. In working toward a thoroughness of character, we dream of arriving at a state of completeness where who we are and what we do are forever one. We dream of living the rest of our lives this wholly.

But recently I realized — when things weren’t going smoothly, when I was breaking small things around me — that the beauty of life resides in the relationships we’re drawn into as we try to bridge the gap that is always there between who we are and what we do.

While we need to keep bringing who we are and what we do together, while we aspire morally to be in more and more alignment with life, making everything we encounter more whole, it’s living in between that holds the richness of being alive. If blessed, we’ll never arrive at complete integrity or life will be done with us. Rather, it’s the thoroughness of holding nothing back as we try to be integral that brings us alive.

When I can accept that I’m always en route to integrity, my humility is awakened and my compassion deepens. This changes how I listen, how I give, how I receive. I was surprised to discover that the engagement of integrity over the achievement of integrity allows us to inhabit life through our vulnerability, rather than trying to perfect life through our imagined purity.

A Question to Walk With: Describe one difference you are experiencing between who you are and what you do. How do you regard the gap between who you are and what you do? Name one small step you can take in approaching your own integrity.


This article was originally featured on the Huffington Post’s Poetry for the Soul. Mark Nepo is a New York Times bestselling author, poet, spiritual teacher and longtime friend of Parker J. Palmer. In 2010, Mark’s “The Book of Awakening” was chosen as one of “Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things.” He writes and teaches on the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship. Learn more about Mark Nepo at http://www.marknepo.com and keep an eye out for his new book coming out in September 2014, “The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be” (Atria).

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