Pattern #32


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Integrity and Authenticity

Credit: Roshi Joan

Deception generates collective ignorance and folly. So it is important to represent ourselves and our views, feelings, intentions, and knowledge as truthfully as we can in life-serving ways. This helps everyone understand what is needed, real and available as they seek to generate broad benefits in changing conditions.

Related: 2 Appreciative Thinking, 5 Capacitance, 25 Feeling Heard, 44 Power of Listening, 53 Safety First, Then Challenge, 63 Universal Participation, 66 Well-Utilized Life Energy

Going deeper …

This is an edited version of the video on this page.

Deception impedes collective intelligence. We need to be able to face reality, and what’s going on inside people is a major part of reality in any collective situation. So we need some access to that. We need to know what’s going on, what’s your story, how you are doing, what are you about and so forth.

To the extent there is deception going on, we don’t have access to that. So it generates collective ignorance when people hide important information, keeping it from the general pool of knowledge. Being ignorant of that information, they act without knowing it and their actions then don’t align with reality and fail. Withholding information is often a defense of one’s own interests and so the interest profile of the collective gets lopsided towards the psyche of the person who is withholding, or the group that is withholding.

But it is important to represent ourselves and our views, feelings, intentions, and knowledge as truthfully as we can in life-serving ways. After all, we can be open in ways that undermine other people or the aliveness of the group or the larger systems we’re part of. So we need to be conscious of how we share what’s going on while we recognize that there is a downside if we withhold important information that potentially reduces the collective intelligence of the group we are part of. And If we put out information that is unnecessarily disruptive and harmful we are also potentially undermining the collective intelligence of the group.

So we are holding both of those:  We are thinking of the well-being and collective intelligence of the group and we are representing ourselves honestly: this is who I am, what am I capable of, what I am here for, what am I doing, my views and feelings, etc. These are the things I think, this is closest to what I can share, this is a good description of what I see. Here’s what I feel and need, here are my intentions, here’s where I’m at at this point, here’s what I’m here for.

My knowledge and my ignorance are also part of representing myself authentically. Authentically representing your ignorance is saying, “Well, I really don’t know”. Being willing to say “I don’t know” without feeling that it’s undermining your reputation, your status, or your ego, is definitely part of this.

So we are trying to be truthful. Truth is alignment between what is stated or presented and what is real. We are trying to align with what’s real. We are trying to act on the basis of what’s real. What’s real of course includes the factual material reality, but also the social reality and the consciousness reality. Who we are is part of what’s real – and we are trying to operate in congruence with reality. So the more we all show up as who we are and speak and act as who we are, the more we are able to collectively generate collective alignment with what is actually going on.

In order to take into account what needs to be taken into account to generate broad long-term benefits, we need to understand what’s needed for all the people and groups involved.  What do they need? What do we need? We all need to be able to put that forward. And also we need to know what the situation requires: What dynamics do we need to be mindful of as we go about trying to generate broad benefits? We need to know what’s real – what’s actually here in this situation we are facing and what’s available to us as resources.

To the extent we represent ourselves fully to each other, we find out there are many things people have to offer – the gifts they bring, the capacities they have, shareable possessions, etc. We can think, “Oh, they have a tool that I need that I didn’t even know was anywhere in my network. I was going to buy one.” Well, you can use one free just by borrowing Sam’s when he’s not using it. Being open about ourselves in our lives usually reveals many resources we were not aware of.

This pattern is especially about us being real in present time: Here’s how I am now. I may have been different five minutes ago, five months ago, five years ago, but this is how I am now. To the extent people persist in being authentic as conditions change, information is constantly available from the group that helps them all be real.

You may suddenly see something you didn’t notice before, but you withhold it because you don’t want to upset the apple cart. But then you realize that it may be very important to upset the apple cart because the cart is going the wrong direction. Or we are supposed to have pears in the cart instead of apples.

The story of the Emperor’s New Clothes is a great example. The Emperor is naked because he’s been led to believe that the clothes these charlatans are selling him are magical and that anybody who has ill will won’t be able to see the clothes. Everybody’s trying to act like they’re all good people so they pretend they actually see the clothes even though they don’t. Then this kid who sees that there are no clothes – because he’s a kid looking through honest kid’s eyes – says, “Why is the emperor all naked?” He is being authentic. The other people are not. The whole kingdom realizes they are being foolish.

Video Introduction (12 min)

Examples and Resources

Processes like Nonviolent Communication and Dynamic Facilitation use reflective listening (which brings out what a person is really thinking and feeling) and evocative questions (which bring out what people really want). A person doing NVC or DF is trying to understand in a public way what’s going on for this other person and to check it with that other person.  So there’s this match between what’s going on internally for people and what is available in the public space that is supported and insured to a certain degree by the way NVC and DF do reflective listening. So that’s a systemic approach to this pattern.

Science helps us align with reality through replication. If you do an experiment and come up with something and you report it, then there’s an effort to see if that’s really what reality is telling us by replicating the scientific experiment.

In the larger society there are laws against fraud, libel and perjury. These are all different ways of representing what’s not true as if it were true. So the society in its effort to function with some level of collective intelligence says, “We are going to minimize and punish these acts. We don’t want these things in our midst any more than absolutely necessary.” So it establishes constraints on people’s efforts to be false in their representations.

Reputational systems also serve that purpose. There are reputational systems in small towns where everybody kind of knows each other. Although sometimes those systems can be horribly distorted, somebody who has integrity and is honest will usually rise up in a reputational system and be seen and respected. Somebody who is always lying and fraudulent and messing with people will develop a bad reputation. Even though there’s lots of things that can be manipulated with such reputational systems, they provide a broad brush way of establishing people’s legitimacy.

There are also many online reputational systems. At sites like Amazon you see reviews or people giving points or stars for a product or to a person. There are also ways to make sure that the reviewers themselves are honest. If you put out a review that trashes somebody or something, other reviewers can comment on your review saying it is not really truthful. When you have layers of reputational systems laid on top of each other like that, it can help crowdsource the integrity of the whole system and the integrity of the people participating in it.

In practices like Radical Honesty, people actually take workshops to overcome their resistance to saying where they are at. They become willing to live in the disturbance that happens as a result of being honest and working with whoever is disturbed to come to a better place, a more life-serving place. The challenge is to get over that initial impulse to hide in order to survive or to not hurt people. So radical honesty is one experiment in doing that, in getting beyond our resistance of being fully authentic.