Integrity is an important aspect of spiritual inquiry. We must be congruent in our words, actions, and thoughts. However, many of us do not actually believe what we say we believe. We claim to believe in God, and yet in our hearts we are atheists. Or we profess to the world and to ourselves that we are atheist, but deep down we believe in God. This lack of integrity causes problems in our spiritual development, and also impedes the progress of those around us.
It is commonly said in psychology that the first step in progressing forward is acknowledgement – to be honest with ourselves. The same is true of spirituality. It is very difficult to make spiritual progress if we do not first admit our own beliefs. It is like using a map to find directions, but without knowing where we start from. We must be honest with ourselves, and we must also be honest with others. If we are not honest with others, then we usually end up lying to ourselves, and furthermore, our dishonesty may lead them astray. In addition, we must respect the right of others to be honest and open about their own beliefs without fear of judgement.
Religion is a major cause of people’s dishonesty about their beliefs. The reason is that many religions, particularly the theistic ones, tell us what we ought to believe. In fact, we are often told that believing some certain set of things is what will determine our salvation. This is a problem, because it leads people into trying to convince themselves that they believe something, whereas belief is not a choice. We cannot consciously change our beliefs. We can only question them with an open mind, and allow them to evolve of their own accord.
Hence, instead of trying to believe this or that, in accordance with society’s beliefs or what our religion tells us to believe, we should focus on discovering what we truly believe. When we learn to recognize these closely guarded beliefs, we open the door to change. We should never be ashamed of our beliefs, and nor should we try to make them one way or another. All we have to do is be honest about them, maintain integrity, and challenge them and question them on every step of the way.