Dem Bones, dem Bones

bonesWhat on earth do bones have to do with integrity?  

I probably would have asked the same question myself a few weeks ago.

Then I came across a quote from Carolyn Myss: ” you don’t need a wishbone; you need a backbone.” 

I could definitely see what she meant.   All the good intentions in the world don’t get you far without action and commitment.

But then another part of me piped up that living in integrity is a lot easier if you also have a funny bone.

And in a balanced life, there’s nothing wrong with having a wishbone either.  




Integrity by its very nature is a pretty comprehensive subject, if we take it to refer to the whole of our life and also to congruence between our inner life and outer world.

On one level, integrity is simple and transparent.  On another, a life that is lived in or indeed out of integrity is not something that happens once and for all.   It is a composite of countless steps and decisions.

A simple and fun framework was on my wish list.   Integrity can be a serious subject, yes, but it doesn’t have to be heavy going.

And then, it struck me that the secret might be in the bones!



In practice

I’ve really enjoyed using some bone images to remind myself about being more in integrity.  

Need to

  • Take a stance or do something courageous?    Backbone
  • Inspire yourself or someone else?    Wishbone
  • Lighten up and not take things so seriously?   Funny bone
  • Simplify life to be able to get clearer?      Bare bones
  • Let go of an old resentment or something not forgiven?    One less bone to pick
  • Trust yourself?    Feel it in your bones

Am sure you get the idea!     The bare bones of integrity.

Some of the expressions below may not be familiar to people whose first language is not English, so in those cases I have included a brief definition.  







Wishbone: having a vision, a sense of purpose, willing to appreciate and see the bigger picture.  

Being inspired and inspiring.   

Seeing integrity in its widest context as a way to fulfil our deepest and highest dreams. 

 As a key to living out the fullness of our life purpose. 





Backbone:  courage, strength, sticking to your principles, the courage of your convictions.  Thinking for yourself.  Keeping your promises to yourself and others.

Conversely, having no backbone means you lack strength of character. You don’t make your own decisions, let yourself be told what to believe, follow the crowd, don’t think for yourself and lack individuality.  

Backbone is essential for integrity.




Funny bone

Funny bone

Funny bone

Funny bone: a sense of humor, not taking ourselves too seriously.   

The more you live in integrity with yourself, the more joy you will experience, even if life is challenging.  

A good laugh or giggle can be a great way to bring you back to balance.  

Chesterton wrote: “Perhaps the reason angels can fly is that they take themselves lightly.”





Bare bones

ClarityBare bones (basic elements or essentials): 

The more you are in truth and integrity with yourself, the simpler (not necessarily easier) life becomes.   There is a clarity and transparency in your life.  The right hand knows what the left hand is doing. 

By contrast, a life that is not lived in integrity can become very complicated, as you’ll know if you ever told a lie or concealed a truth. 

Bare bones can also mean simplifying your life: clutter, commitments and whatever distracts from what you really value.




Make no bones about something

To talk about or do something in a very open manner.  The more we live in integrity the more authentic we become. Conversely the more authentic we are the more we live in integrity.  

This expression can also mean something like “make no mistake about it.”   Make no bones about it, living in integrity may be challenging at times but is profoundly rewarding and empowering,




Dog with a bone

Dog with a bone
Dog with a bone

A dog with a bone that he doesn’t want to let go of.

This could be dogged stubbornness and inflexibility. 

But integrity does require strength of character and tenacity. 

Think of any great leader who guarded a deeply cherished vision despite all efforts to take it from him.   Balance is key.




A bone to pick

If you have a bone to pick with someone you want to talk to him / her about something they have done to you.    Clearing up old resentments, disagreements, misunderstandings.    Dealing with unresolved issues from the past that are draining your energy in the present.



I feel it in my bones

You just know

You just know

Feeling something in your bones:  you just know!   

The more you get in touch with your own integrity, the more you can trust your own knowing, which usually goes way beyond logic or reasoning.  

Sometimes this one needs practice. 

If you aren’t in the habit of trusting your own judgement, it can be good to start in small ways first.  

That way you know that that feeling feels like for the more challenging decisions or dilemmas.



A bone of contention

Something that people argue about for a long time.   Closely related to a bone to pick.   The integrity way would be to get to the real issues in a conflict and resolve them once and for so everyone can move on.  




Dog that carries a bone

gossip 3“A dog that brings a bone will carry a bone”, in other words, the person who gossips to you about others will gossip to others about you.  

If you listen to gossip, you’ll bring gossip onto yourself.  

In broader terms, what goes round comes round.   Taking responsibility and letting go of blame.  




Give a dog a bone

Idog a bonen Australia the term to give a dog a bone has several idiomatic meanings.  One meaning is to give someone a break, a second chance. In this instance someone might say, “Come on, give the dog a bone!” (As in, let them have another go).  

Within reason, and not being gullible either, give people the benefit of the doubt.  Most people do the best they know or are able,given their circumstances.  

Connecting with someone at a level of the common ground of our humanity can be an act of faith in them which brings out their best.




Bone up

To bone up (on something) to study something thoroughly; to review the facts about something.    Focussing on values, discussions and books that inspire you to live in a more fulfilled and integrated way.  


Finally, two interesting images deriving from bones in the form of skeletons:  


Skeleton key

A skeleton key is a master key and the term derives from the fact that the key has been reduced to its essential parts.   

The term “skeleton key”, in a more general sense, is also sometimes used in reference to key or similar object capable of opening any lock regardless of make or type. The term refers to the skeletal structure which can bypass all locks.   

You could think of values as a master or skeleton key to unlocking and accessing your life purpose.  



Skeleton in the cupboard

Secret scandals or embarrassing secrets.   These are a drain on our energy.  How about taking Shaw’s advice, getting the skeletons out of the cupboard and freeing up all of that energy!

Skeleton in cupboard




These are the ones I’ve thought of so far.  They are brief teasers and there will be posts to follow that explore some of them in more detail.

If you think of any more, please share so we can add to our collection.   If there is a ‘”bone” expression in your language or your country that fits in with this discussion, we’d love to hear about it.