Of Integrity, Inside and Out.

Integrity is a word that frequently pops up in my life; I use it frequently, I think about the word itself, I try to let it guide my actions, and others have described me as having it. So, like any word that catches my attention, I look up it’s origins.

First, in order to get a general definition with some consensus to its current use, I employ Google “Define” function. From Google, I got the definitions:

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  2. The state of being whole and undivided.
  • The condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.

(Google: DEFINE)

Next, I pursue the current established etymology. I usually rely on Wiktionary for this as I find that this websites word database is surprisingly complete and with rather full articles. According to Wiktionary, it goes back to Latin, with the word “integer” (meaning to be intact), later growing into “integritās” (meaning soundness, or of course integrity), then Middle French as “intégrité”, and finally Middle and Modern English as “integrity”, with the above mentioned definitions (Wiktionary). It is also from this tree of etymology that we find the words “integrate”, “integral”, and “Entirety”.

It has been my observation that in order for someone to represent or express integrity, it is necessary for what they have on the inside to match or compliment what they share on the outside. This can be a truly empowering way to exist becasue you don’t have any secrets then, nothing is kept personal. Of course this means that you must live a sincere and humble life, after all to have your private life exposed as clearly as the clothing you wear out in public, you had better hope that you’re spotless.

This can sort of be thought of as the difference between how you act at home or when you’re out in public or as a guest somewhere. The Japanese actually have a term for this, Hyori, or Omote Ura (表裏). The term can basically be translated as the “outside” (omote; 表) and the “inside” (ura; 裏). Depending on the application of the term, it can be observed many ways. Most seem to prefer to do whatever they want with the unseen, private Ura half, while always striving to be on their best behavior on their seen, public, Omote half. This would be common sensible, however, there is one sever drawback to this approach: it is a breeding ground for insecurities, fear, and self-worth complexes.

  • What if people saw the “real” you? Your private side, you’re secrets, you’re flaws.
  • What if someone can see through your mask? See under your shell? Reveal you’r shadows?
  • And knowing that your hidden side isn’t as bright and sparkly as your public side, this knowledge starts to eat away at you; friends, loved ones, co-workers, etc., might know you to be polite and well intentions, but only you know what sassy back talk you might have in you’re head, degradation's, insults, perversions, and so on. You know yourself better than anyone, how flawed and stained on the inside you are…

This also applies in the martial arts. For each technique, each kata (pattern of movements; 型), each way to manipulate a weapon, tool, limb, etc, there is both omote, the appearance of the technique, and ura, the deeper understanding “inside” the technique. Just like in the matter of social affairs, in physical conflict, if only the superficial outside of the technique is matured, but the inside, the understanding, the shortcuts, and things that you hide from your opponent, your teacher, and yourself, then the technique on the while will lack a solid base, an integrity.

Your outside, topographical grasp of the technique might be strong, but if how you treat your own body is immature, if you’re use of the tendons and ligaments are ignorant, if the control, rate of rhythm, jerkiness, and tension are ungoverned, then the inside of your technique will be immature.

Karl Friday explaines Ura and Omote in his book Legacies of the Sword: The Kashima-Shinryū and Samurai Martial Culture as

“[. . .] each phenomenon of the universe has an inner, unrevealed mien as well as an outer, obvious visage. [. . .] In the natural order of things, these two aspects function in complete harmony, inseparable even in conception. The inner and outer surfaces of a drop of water, or the front and back sides of a piece of paper, for example, cannot be disjoined; each is but a facet of the other. Also, neither ura nor omote is more real than the other; both simply are, at once and always. Kashima-Shinryū cosmology expresses this notion in the phrase “hyōri Ittai,” or “Outside (omote) and Inside (ura) as One.” Only in the realm of human affairs can the relationship between ura and omote become confused, omote severed from its proper ura, as when kind words (omote) are used to mask evil intentions (ura).[. . .]”
(Karl F. Friday. p.61)

Thus, I perceive the Google definition of integrity, “the state of being whole and undivided” to be most relevant here. If you govern your inside the same as your outside, if your ura and omote is integrated, then you may take action with integrity and an undivided commitment. Through this you learn to not doubt yourself, and wont have to compensate with egotistical self talk.

“ Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet)