Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. ~Buddha
What is integrity? And what does it mean for the Wiccan faith? Wikipedia defines integrity as, “A concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes. In western ethics, integrity is regarded as the quality of having an intuitive sense of honesty and truthfulness in regard to the motivations for one's actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.” In this definition we see three themes: Integrity as a consistency of a number of things, integrity as the intuitive sense of honesty and truthfulness, and integrity as the opposite of hypocrisy. Each of these concepts can be further explored within the Wiccan religion.
The first part of this concept, “a consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes,” asks a very important question. Whose actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes? Society? Religion? Personal Belief? I feel this directly links to Wicca because it is such a personal religion in itself. Everyone practices differently, maybe with similar aspects, but there is no one source to find information and no one to monitor your spiritual growth but yourself. This is often very difficult for many beginners on the Pagan path and the knowledge of any one person can never truly be measured as there is nothing to measure it against. On my own personal search I’ve found a number of books that were extremely useful and others that, unfortunately, were not. I’ve even found books that claim to “tell the truth” about the Wiccan religion that are nothing but Christian propaganda against the religion. So where is the consistency? Christians hold their basis for the way they live their lives in the Bible. Wiccans have the Rede, ”’An Ye Harm None, Do As Ye Will” but as most of us know, “harm” can be a very tricky word to interpret. It is essentially up to the individual to define what is right and wrong in respect to their own personal beliefs and ideals, and Wicca is a religion that encourages this type of thinking. Wiccan author, Wren Walker, writes, “Witchcraft and Wicca are religions of personal power and responsibility. If you are not willing to do the work of discernment and introspection-to formulate a set of integrated values for yourself-then Witchcraft and Wicca are probably not for you.”
Going back to Wikipedia, “In western ethics, integrity is regarded as the quality of having an intuitive sense of honesty and truthfulness in regard to the motivations for one's actions.” In Wiccan ethics, honesty and truthfulness are only two motivations for our actions. One often hears the word “honour” when thinking of the ethics for most Pagans. I like to think of it as a “WWGD – What Would Goddess Do?” After all, isn’t that the whole purpose to this project? But honour can also lead to a heap of controversy in itself. Which God/ess/es you choose to honour and how you choose to honour them can often get wrapped up into the integrity debate.Kaatryn MacMorgan-Douglas makes her case as she writes, “Many Wiccans do not follow a path of intellectual integrity. They do not honor the sources of their beliefs, and many, including some authors, outright lie about the cultures they borrow from. They act like the many people who attacked the indigenous cultures and led to the need to reconstruct the natural religions of their people -just as horned gods became Satan in the eyes of Christianity, real deities with responsibilities to their people and active relationships with them become mere "aspects of the all" to many Wiccans or interchangeable faces of male and female power. These Wiccans interpret these deities in modern ways, which is not the problem, the problem lies in the belief that these interpretations ARE the truth, and often the insistence that reconstructionists conform to their new, improved truth.” Although I feel she makes a pretty clear case, I feel that one needs to honour with reverence no matter who they choose. This is a good rule of thumb to follow and speaks to the grace of gratitude as well.
Finally, “Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.” This is where I think that integrity has to be measured firstly from within someone’s own system of belief. Their behaviour as viewed by other ethical systems is also important, but comes second. We may associate ourselves with people and societies that hold similar beliefs about integrity, but will often have some conflicting ideas as well. Integrity requires us to do what we feel is right even when it may cost us personally. “No man can purchase his virtue too dear, for it is the only thing whose value must ever increase with the price it has cost us. Our integrity is never worth so much as when we have parted with our all to keep it.” Ovid said this and it is only too true.
In my personal opinion, integrity is also about doing what you say you are going to do. It is important to keep to your own ethical standards in order to preserve you own integrity. This is where we as Wiccans need to define our principles and ethics, maybe even define “Harm” for ourselves as well, and stick to these definitions. It is about sticking to what we believe, doing good, and acting in a way that would make us, society, and the Divine proud. As Pagans, we want others to be able to look at us and see us for a legitimate faith based group. We are often laughed at as a whole because of the depictions of a few in the media and otherwise. Integrity to show non-Pagans the best of us is important for our image as a religion. It’s also important for new followers of the faith. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been kept waiting by fiends and so called professionals on the excuse of “Pagan Standard Time.” Is this the way we really want to be seen? As flaky and unreliable? I don’t think so. Integrity can help us as a group if we all just practiced a little more of it.
Let us think on these things.
Your life may be the only Bible some people read. ~Author Unknown