A Benchmark for Our Actions

A reflection from our dean, Emilie M. Townes, for October 2022:

Lately, I’ve been finding myself talking about integrity in the various talks I’ve been giving. I do so because I think having integrity and living our lives by modeling it gives us a benchmark for our actions.  In this case, integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.  It requires us to really be the way that we present ourselves to others, that we keep our promises, honor the meanings and understandings we negotiate—consciously and unconsciously, and that our gestures toward welcome offered in conscious good faith are deeply genuine.

Integrity responds to our being public as well as private selves who are created in the interactions with others and by the roles we play while allowing for change in ourselves as people in communal and societal connections rather than as autonomous beings only. And we must have the will to pass good things on to the next generation, pay attention to our living in our thoughts and actions, strive to choose health and wellness, teach others how to survive and thrive, and live what we talk about, write about, pray about.

We realize that we are on an adventure of discovery and/or recall for ourselves and share with others the importance of knowing where we’ve all come from so that we are not tempted to make decisions in thin air. Instead, we lean into the thick is-ness of our lives—the agonies and the ecstasies—to find our bearings for the journey; for we can never get away from the history that brought us here, even if we do not know it. It is painfully easy to fail to engage in this way and then we repeat well-worn atrocities and failed strategies instead of building on the past—the good and the bad—in our relentless quest to make this a better world.

To address this, I suggest that we must be attentive to a quest of have integrity as one of our watchwords and refuse to accept a not so moral stance that asks us, tells us, and demands of us that we view our bodies and spirits as separate, antagonistic, and unequal. Instead, let’s refuse simplistic paint-by-numbers affirmations and hosannahs and lean, with vigor and great expectation, a robust faith that lives large into the challenges of our days.

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