The final stage of development is Integrity. You know who you are, and do not require that everyone else be like you. The world doesn’t have to be the same color, religion, think the same way. Integrity knows that all humans are worthy, and deep inside we genuinely feel this to be true. We know that the true strength in the world is its diversity, that the differences make this a beautiful place to live.
When we have integrity, we know the personal values and the principles by which we guide our life. We live by this personal code of justice, honesty and knowing what is right. Sometimes, we are even willing to die for our values. A strong sense of integrity is when someone says, “I’m not going to steal, not because I’m afraid I’ll get caught, but because it’s just wrong.” No one needs to keep an eye on us, because we simply won’t cross the line from right to wrong.
We want to develop this sense of strength in living by our beliefs and our values. This is the ultimate in maturity. If we don’t achieve this step, along with the other seven, then this is why law enforcement is needed. Those folks who don’t live by an honest code wind up in prison for infringing upon the laws and rights of others. Police and corrections officers become the replacements for ineffective, misguided or missing parenting.
When we have integrity, we see order to the universe as opposed to disorder. Those without integrity tend to think that everything is bad and falling apart. If we were brought up in an atmosphere of chaos, trust never happened and identity was never solidified. Without trust, we never learned intimacy and sharing anything was “off the table.” Immaturity is now the norm.
At the very foundation of these eight stages is trust, and trust is simply the reliance on another person’s integrity. We rely on other people living up to their word. We can’t have trust if we live in a world where people won’t live by what they say, where justice is ignored, where laws are seen as things to be broken at will.
The good news is that at each level, if we missed it on our way to adulthood, we can go back and catch up what we missed. We are not stuck in immaturity. We do have the choice to take accountability and fix what is broken. Yes, it will take time. And yes, it will take commitment and work. But that’s what maturity is all about.
And each of us deserves to fully live the lives we’ve been given, lives of genuine contribution to the world.