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David Diana
Dec 29, 2010

The Intellectual Integrity of Commitment

Drinking coffee with friends, I loved myself dearly. We all did really. We would talk for hours about the meaning of life, referencing Kierkegaard, Camus, Dostoevsky, or any number of courageous thinkers we admired. And I remember looking upon issue after issue with cool detachment as if I were a scientist observing what I saw from a microscope. We’d examine different schools of thought and discuss their positive points and subsequent weaknesses for hours on end. And while this experience was an important part of my personal development I must confess that today, I see it as an impediment to true knowing.

Part of the problem was my unwillingness to act or take a stand. I viewed commitment as the antithesis of intellectual maturity.

Consider this fantastic statement from theologian, Karl Rahner.

“Thus it is that a person is not free if he maintains his freedom through skepticism, if he does not get involved, if, through a dreadful fear of falling into error, he will not respond to an insight in absolute terms; he ends up having struck the worse bargain. He lives, lives once, and sets up something that cannot be called back…. Moreover, it is quite impossible to function in a dimension this side of commitment. In fact, the attempt to remain neutral is nothing other than refusal to respond thoughtfully to decisions that arise in the actual carrying out of one’s life. For at least one commitment is inevitable, and that is the decision to see life as an absurdity or as the expression of an unutterably mysterious meaning. In short, intellectual integrity requires that one summon the courage necessary to spiritual decision, even when this decision is burdened with all the uncertainty, darkness, and fear of a mind bound to history and the finite, a mind conscious of its limitations but nevertheless resolved to commit itself.”

We must be mindful of the seduction that is “sitting on the sidelines”. In Rahner’s case, he was looking at the broader scope of “meaning” in life. However, his message is equally powerful and pointed when we speak of growth in other areas.

Consider professional development as one such area. We are taught to critically analyze the work being done in our profession so we can form our own hypotheses. This is a fine first step, but eventually, we need to stand for something. We need to find that “something” where we say…ALL IN! That kind of commitment will not come about through absolute knowing. Each of us must step into the great unknown if we are to achieve success at that level.

Understand that your commitment is not a weakness.

Your courage to take a step forward in the work you do is, in the end, the highest form of intellectual integrity.

David P. Diana is a counselor, author, and a director for a behavioral healthcare organization. He writes a weekly blog on sales and marketing for counselors (

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