The word competency comes from the root word competent which means having the capacity to function or develop in a particular way.[i] Competent is “derived from the Latin word competentia, meaning ‘meeting together, agreement, symmetry.’”[ii] Being competent declares that we are capable. At first, we may only be able to do something moderately, slightly, or not at all. Over time, with repetition, we are able to master a task.
Learning about competency is one thing. Learning to embody competency is quite another. Learning about something means we can repeat it on cue. We have memorized it. Embodying means that we function naturally at a subconscious level. It is who we have become. We have not only learned what it takes to become this person, we have also displayed this behavior in our actions for an extended period of time. Our words match our actions, and we can now say we possess the quality of integrity. Integrity means:
- we have decided who we want to be;
- we have worked hard at becoming that person;
- we can now say that this is who we are, and it is true;
- others now know that this is true; and
- our word is good to others and to ourself.
When our word is accurate to ourself, then our word is accurate to others. Trust for self eventually brings trust for others. We either want to be a certain thing—or not. We have either worked hard to achieve something—or not. We can say with certainty that this is who we are—or not. Our word is either good—or not. When we choose to live with integrity, it means that our word matters, even when no one is looking, even when there is something at risk, and even if we made a mistake. Integrity is not the by-product of thinking we are something, but the result of actually being something worth being. We cannot solely think our way into being a person others trust. We must act our way into being someone that others trust. We must first start with acting like someone we trust.
Somehow along the way, it became okay to be dishonest with ourselves. No one else was going to find out, so it seemed all right to cheat a little. We rationalized our behavior. After a time, we got comfortable not keeping our promises to ourselves. It felt normal. Soon it became easier to not keep promises to others. They got a little upset, but not that mad. It was certainly bearable. Yes, it was all bearable. This became the new routine, and it was okay that we didn’t trust ourselves and that others didn’t really trust us either. After all, life was just plain hard.
We believed that if other people’s lives were as hard as ours, they’d have behaved the way we did. So we moved through life with this idea that we had it bad, and others could not possibly understand. We thought it was normal, and we came to accept it as who we were. We embodied this false philosophy. We adapted to the idea that life was just hard. Life wasn’t fair. Our parents screwed us up. What was the point in trying when it was futile? We moved forward in life with these beliefs and never bothered to investigate if they were true. We didn’t even know how to investigate our own thinking. We had deceived ourselves for so long, it appeared to be the only way. It never occurred to us that it could be any different. As a matter of fact, when someone told us it could be different, their words fell on deaf ears.
Locked into this frame of thinking only produces more of the same. After all, the subconscious seeks to reinforce its programming. We will need to shatter our old identity if this is to change. We demolish the old identity by acting our way into a new identity. It is painful, horribly painful. It is the hardest thing we will ever do, and worse yet, we have no reference point for how we are going to do it. Nor do we know others who have done it. We have not walked through anything like this before. As hard as it may seem, it is still easier than staying where we are.
We must not fear making the change; we must fear staying the same. When faced with the option, the horror of staying the same is too much to bear. It is then that we are ready to change.