Within the last few days the subject of integrity has come up in several conversations. I think there’s a buzz in the air, specifically with the upcoming elections, our failing financial institutions and the lack of integrity that we sometime see around us. I sent out a few tweets on Twitter asking, “Integrity is….”, and asking friends in the social media world to comment. The comments were interesting and quite consistent:
… returning someone’s phone call when you say you will
… keeping your word even when it’s not easy
… consistently listening to your soul
… keeping the promises you make to yourself as well as to those around you
… being who you are even when no one is looking
… naked authenticity without regard for how it may offend (B.S. political correctness. Do the right thing!)
… being honest about having a beer with the boys even if you miss dinner and she’s ticked
… holding yourself to a higher standard of truth, sincerity, genius, class and caring for others
… what you do when no one is watching
… remembering that there’s someone called “I” too who needs me more than anyone
… doing what you say you will do; following through with your commitments
… integrity is the by-product of knowing you are whole and complete, i.e., enlightenment
… making something learned or some value part of our being; integral to who we are and how we act
… not lying to the cop who pulls you over for doing 71 in a 55
… doing what you should as opposed to what you want
… telling the truth even when it’s detrimental to you personally
… oneness or wholeness, which in terms of human qualities means there is no rupture or dissonance between our word and our action
… admitting to and apologizing for doing something wrong
… honesty and moral uprightness of character
… not exaggerating your accomplishments
… not cheating on your diet or your spouse
… doing the right thing even when no one is watching, or, as I like to say, to have “a cause without the applause”
… having the ability to refuse a job worth heaps because its out of sync with your values and ethics
… correcting the cashier when she misses an item in your basket at the grocery store
… that which leads you to take the difficult, yet morally right choice, rather than the easy path of moral mediocrity
… doing what is right when no one is watching and you know no one will ever know
… living up to the man or woman you want others to hope you are
… truth to self that informs all we do, belief in self born of a foundation of beliefs we honor
… not lying about your weight, your age or your marital status
… choosing to do only the things you believe in, even if your livelihood and lots of dollars are at stake
But what about the little white lies? When a cop pulls you over as you’re zipping by 20mph over the limit and asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”, is it out of integrity to tell him you have no idea? What about when your best friend proudly shows off a new dress and asks “Don’t you just love it!”, and you don’t? I don’t have all the answers. I’m looking for your take on this too, but here’s mine.
I think it all comes down to this. Integrity isn’t relative. It isn’t a matter of perspective. You either have it or you don’t. How you do one thing is how you do everything. You can’t have integrity in some parts of your life and choose not to have it in others. It’s like being pregnant- you either are or you’re aren’t. You either have integrity or you don’t.
Having integrity is doing what’s right even if you’re the only one who knows, even if you’d never get caught and even if it causes you harm. It’s doing the right thing anyway. And, if you say you’re going to do something, do it. Your word is one of the only things that can never be taken away. It is such a part of who you are. And once it’s gone, it’s difficult at best to ever get it back.
Where are you out of integrity in your life? With your partner? Sneaking ice cream at 2am and breaking your diet? Lying to yourself about your relationship? We all have it somewhere. Mine is promising myself I’m going to exercise and then getting “too busy”. I’m out of integrity with me.
Wow, in rereading this, if what I wrote above is true, then I have no integrity! Yeesh, that’s a hard one, no? Can I have integrity in most areas of my life and yet not have it with the commitments to myself? It seems more difficult to keep promises to myself than it does to anyone else. When I look back at the paragraph above where everything is so black and white, I realize that the world is sometimes gray. I believe it is possible to still have integrity most of the time, but we are also human. There may be times when we promise something to ourselves and then lack the follow through to make it happen. Is that being out of integrity? Is that a gray area?
I’d love to hear your take on this. Comment here or share at email@example.com. Thanks to all my Twitter friends for sharing your insights on integrity and giving me a lot of food for thought.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are; your reputation is merely what others think you are. ” –John Wooden