The definition of integrity covers two parts that sometimes seem to be talking about two different things. Integrity is “1) the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, moral uprightness, and 2) the state of being whole, undivided.” While many use the second definition to talk about THINGS such as the integrity of a building, a more complete exploration shows us that the second part also applies to human behavior. The first questions to ask oneself are “Am I undivided within my values, the way I show up? Am I whole as a person or am I compartmentalizing?” What does that mean??!
C.S. Lewis stated that “integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking”. The wholeness or undivided part comes into play through being consistent. It means that there is really just ONE you. That self shows up the same way whether at work, at home, in social settings, out in public or all alone. When we are also looking at the first definition, that one self that shows up in all settings is honest and with strong moral principles.
Doing What’s Right:
Sometimes that will mean making hard choices and doing what’s right even when there may be negative consequences for it. When people achieve both types of integrity, they are trustworthy. This kind of person is going to do what they say they will do, even when it’s no longer convenient. This kind of person isn’t going to do what they say they won’t do, or don’t believe in, even when doing that thing rewards them. Integrity has a moral compass even when other people seem lost and push for similar lost behavior.
Integrity means taking responsibility for one’s actions. It is meaning what you say and saying what you mean. In those cases, giving your word has weight and it counts for something. People with integrity don’t leverage loopholes, just because they can, when the action isn’t consistent with their stated values. These people know who they are, all the time, and are as consistent in that as much as humanly possible.
Real life examples of integrity:
- If you believe that a certain behavior isn’t ok when it’s coming at you or at someone you love, then it’s not ok coming FROM you or your loved one either. Act accordingly.
- If you feel it’s important to return a small amount of dropped money then it’s also important to notify someone when a mistake gave you a massive amount of money incorrectly.
- When you borrow money, knowing it’s meant to be paid back, do so as quickly as you can. Don’t make someone have to push for it or wait on you.
- If context will change the meaning of what story you are telling, include it, even if it makes you look bad.
- Similarly, if silence leads someone to believe something false, speak up.
- If you tell your kids you are going to do something, make every effort to actually do it. If it’s not realistic to do it in the first place, don’t offer it.
- Stand up for what is right even when it costs you. That may mean stopping someone from telling a racist joke. It might mean not standing by quietly when someone is being mean to another. It may mean speaking truth to power, or being a whistleblower. It might mean telling a friend his/her infidelity isn’t ok. It may mean taking keys away from someone who is intoxicated and getting into the car.
Why it Matters:
Although it’s not really possible to be 100% consistent all the time, it is important to walk in as much integrity as you can. Even when society allows or rewards bad behavior, it matters. It’s something we need to make sure our children understand. It’s something that will make our relationships more successful. Integrity will create more success in life generally. It certainly brings a sense of internal peace when you can live with yourself. You are the one person whom you can never actually leave behind. Be the best self you can.
“Perhaps the surest test of an individual’s integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect.” – Thomas S. Monson
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