It’s been awhile since I had something worthwhile and overarching to say. In many ways, what I am about to write is the distillation of about 10 years of life-transforming experience.
An acquaintance is dating someone I know. A very nice man, attractive and very accomplished, with a good heart, the ex of a close friend of mine.
I wish I knew how to tell my acquaintance that her exciting new companion is probably going to break her heart.
I can see the future because myself once loved an attractive, accomplished man with a good heart — who, like my friend’s ex, lacked something rather important: integrity. * He cracked my own heart open a time or two with his bravery and great-heartedness. Then he pretty much wiped his ass with it with self-interested deceit.
Nothing too major. Not to someone as young and naive as I was at the time. And of course there was always a slippery excuse that made me hold on hopefully.
The man I loved wasn’t evil. His defenses of the things he did that upset me were always fairly convincing, if you were young and naive. And my friend’s partner isn’t evil. He was sexually faithful, patient and loving, and so funny he made her laugh until she cried.
But I see now you don’t have to be 100% evil to lack integrity to such a point that you can deceive your partner and yourself, defending your own decency while (to take an example from my experience and my friend’s both) starting a new relationship without properly ending the one already going on with the trusting person who loves you.
The integrity-challenged person always has a defense, one you will try to digest and make sense of through the pain you feel. Like a scheming lawyer defending a rich client, there will always be a reason that the bad thing they did is OK if you listen to them long enough.
My friend broke up with her live-in boyfriend, and, still getting over two years of love, asked him to please not start any new relationship until they had figured out separate residences. I think it was within the next day or two that she caught him trolling for women on MySpace (using her laptop) and trying to get a date with someone he’d met. Then he lied to her about both activities.
Is is wholly evil to seek new people to date when you’re broken up but still living together? To lie to yourself and your lover about why you did it? Was he a bad person now, even though he was still the same guy who had loved my friend and looked after her tenderly when she was sick? Who helmed charity events? Who told her, when they fought, “I’m a good guy?”
My friend’s ex didn’t rob banks, beat her, abuse animals, or sleep around with her friends. He just, up to the last dying gasp of their relationship, told small lies, kept things from her, looked out for himself and didn’t seem to care, or be able to care, how much these million small deceits and discovered secrets hurt her, over and over and over and over again.
Only in the movies do people call each other good or evil, think of each other as good or evil. In real life, there no evil people. All I see are fairly nice people, like my father and like the man I loved and the man my friend loved, with a talent for making others pay the price of their happiness.
Loving someone without integrity is never a clean death for love. It means dying a death by a thousand small cuts.
It is nightmarish. It takes forever. You will question your own ability to make sense of reality and judge another person’s worth. You will be told you are judgmental, demanding, impossible to please. You will be told your partner could never live up to all you ask of them.
But all your friends will tell you differently. You will feel like there is the you your partner sees, and the you your friends see, and you can’t understand how they are the same person.
When all you are asking for is the truth. When all you ask for is to be treated as you treat your partner, with the concept in your mind about how your actions make the other person feel. Only when you have a reflection of other people and the rest of the world in your heart are you a real person all the time.
So to you who Google this and to you who find this and know just what I am talking about, to you I am now speaking. Judge the whole person, the whole slate of their lives, rather than an act or series of acts that make your heart scream that since this person acted with integrity a few times and isn’t in jail, doesn’t that mean that you really are crazy and demanding and they are the good, decent, innocent person they say they are?
Hey. It’s OK to judge someone. You have to, to make a decision. You can be a (fairly) good person and still not be worth dating. The earth is, I think, littered with such people. I put a name to them: the morally lazy. The integrity-challenged.
They’re not evil, but they’re not worth wasting a decade of love over. Your whole “problem” is that you tell the truth and they don’t. Your whole “problem” is that you are conducting a relationship of honesty between equals and your beloved “equal” is conducting a relationship in whatever way gets them the most gratification.
So you and me, let’s hold out for someone else. The person who always tells the truth even when you are not around. The person whom you don’t have to ask what they did, because you already know — the thing with integrity that keeps the feelings and needs of others in mind. The person whose morality has no surprises for you or anyone else.
Thus I speak on a day when, standing in the shower on an ordinary Friday, I felt like a huge chunk of the last 10 or 11 years made sense at last.
1. The state or quality of being entire or complete; wholeness; entireness; unbroken state; as, the integrity of an empire or territory. –Sir T. More.
2. Moral soundness; honesty; freedom from corrupting influence or motive; — used especially with reference to the fulfillment of contracts, the discharge of agencies, trusts, and the like; uprightness; rectitude.