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The Pain Debt Of Living Out Of Integrity


We all know about sleep debt.

You sleep four hours one night, two hours the next and three hours the night after that. The morning after you’re such a mess you’re hardly even human anymore.

The same works with pain. And the pain that I’m talking about is that of not being in integrity.

You can either take a little bit of pain today or a whole lot of pain in the future.

Take these scenarios for example:


1. You’re dating a woman you don’t really like.

The first couple of dates are ok, but she’s nothing special. In fact the only thing keeping you there in front of her is the fact that you’d rather be here instead of playing video games by yourself in your apartment. But if you’re really truthful with yourself, you don’t really like her.

It would be painful to call off the relationship after a couple of dates. She might get upset at you. You might be lonely again. But the pain would be relatively small.

But you don’t call it off because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. You go on more dates, and more dates, and soon you get a place together. After a couple of years you decide to get married. It’s the next stage in the process right?

As you’re expecting your first child you realize, “What the hell am I doing?! I don’t even like this woman that much!”

You file for divorce. Things get messy. Really messy.

Pain Debt.


2. You’re hooking up with a woman but you’re afraid to tell her “I Love You.”

You’ve been having sex with a woman for two years now.

It’s as casual as casual sex can be. But the problem is, you really love her. You want to make babies with her and sit next to her watching reruns in a nursing home when you’re both 90.

You’ve had chances to say it. In fact, you wanted to say it from the day you met her. But your best friend who’s “incredible with the ladies” told you to always stay in a position of power. Not to show her any weakness. And he’s had sex with over 100 women, so he must know everything about them!

You could have said it after two months when you really felt it, but there was a chance that she would have rejected you. That would have been painful. So you hold onto this secret.

And you keep things casual. You pretend you’re dating other women just to make her think you’re a man in high demand. You try to be cocky and funny even though it feels unnatural. But she’s still here with you, so it must be working.

Then one day she tells you she’s moving to Los Angeles. Tomorrow.

She says it’s been fun, but she wants a new start and she wants something more real than a friends with benefits situation.

Pain Debt.


3. You’re doing work that doesn’t serve you.

You’re a Vice President of Finance in a Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods firm.

When you graduated from business school you had a chance to take a job with a startup that you would have LOVED.

Everything about the firm was perfect for you. Their mission, their values, their culture, and their impact in the world. But the jobs in finance paid more. So instead of taking a job for $60,000 that would have lit your soul on fire, you took the job making $90,000.

A $30,000 pay cut, that would have been painful. Right?

Fast forward 20 years and you’ve done everything right. The trophy wife, two kids, the corner office, and a seat on the board of your local United Way.

But you’ve never felt emptier in your life. Hundred dollar meals taste like fast food. You need a molotov cocktail of prescription drugs to even make it in to work.

And that motherfucking Blackberry!

If it goes off again I’m going to smash it against the fucking wall! Don’t they know I want to sleep… sometimes?!? It’s 3am for Christ’s sake.

Pain Debt.


4. You’re Mike Hrostoski.

You grew up lying. You did it to protect you and to be loved. But it became a habit.

Lying to your parents about small things became lying to your parents about big things, which became lying to everyone about everything.

In your teens and early twenties you were a borderline pathological liar. You did anything you could do to feel loved or feel significant.

You started dating a girl in your mid-twenties who helped you tremendously on the path of integrity, but you still lied sometimes. You lied about your desires, you lied when it was convenient, and you lied so more people liked you.

You’ve managed to ruin every relationship up until this point because of some form of being out of integrity. Sometimes it was actually cheating. Sometimes it was emotional cheating. Sometimes it was just not being completely forthright with what you wanted out of the relationship.

And sometimes it was not telling her how much you cared, because you were afraid of being rejected. Oh, all the women who you’ve loved who will never know.

Fast forward to today and you finally get it. Integrity is the elixir of life. It’s the proverbial “keys to the kingdom.”

You’re experimenting with radical honesty and your relationships with women, your work, and the world are becoming richer and richer every day. You don’t even recognize your life anymore.

But you’ve been lying to yourself and to others for so long. It’s a hard habit to break. And despite “living in integrity” for the past five or six years, in reality you were only 99% there. And that last 1% is the hardest.

And there are still a good number of open loops to close, loose ends to wrap up, and I’m Sorrys to say.

Pain Debt.


[Photo Credit]

  • Melissa Maris

    This post makes me proud, Spiderman.

  • jonathanmead

    Brick by brick walls are built. Great ones, little ones. It’s the same with our lives, years, months, days, moments. Opening or closing, fear or courage.

    I’m finally becoming free and clean with habits that spent years holding me back. Each day just a little bit of the falsehood cracks, sheds and dissolves like ashes in the wind.

    Thank you for the reminder Mike. I know the direction I’m going now because each day keeps getting better and better.

  • Elisia

    What an incredible post! Your integrity is palpable here. I hope you felt even more liberated when you hit “publish.” Few people can be this honest with themselves; I bet that 1% will actually be easier than you imagine it to be. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • Katniss Everdeen

    I love this post. Through my dharma studies I began strict truth-telling as a spiritual practice about a year ago. At first it was enormously difficult to avoid the white lies. I grew to be more comfortable with saying things like “I’d rather not say” rather then tell a lie. Over time, it has become easier. I can’t believe the rewards that I have reaped bc of radical truth-telling and all of the amazing relationships that have been cultivated as a result. What I struggle with nowadays, however is my lack of patience for chronic liars. My relationships with some people I used to be close to has suffered as a result. Love your blog and looking forward to the next post!

  • Mr. Tasteful

    On the mark, yet again. Truthfulness is the centerpiece of “character.” It comprises everything concerning the meaning of openness, honesty, candor, and integrity. But, it comprises everything, needless to say, that a lot of people deliberately ignore.

  • Chris R

    Totally feel you Mike. My whole life I have struggled with lack of authenticity and the extreme need of acceptance. This combo fueled pathological lying in order quickly adapt to what I thought people wanted me to be. It’s incredible how quickly the weight and shackles leave once true honesty and integrity take over.

  • Chris Ritchie

    Totally feel you Mike. My whole life I have struggled with lack of authenticity and the extreme need of acceptance. This combo fueled pathological lying in order quickly adapt to what I thought people wanted me to be. It’s incredible how quickly the weight and shackles leave once true honesty and integrity take over.

  • sharmaine

    I can totally relate to this post. There is still a lot of shame in revealing my true self. I don’t tell the whole truth, I lied sometimes but the rare occasion I tell the whole truth, I can see the world as being more exciting. I’m working on it…