I is for Integrity
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
“Even when you lose everything, you always have your integrity. Only you can take that away from yourself”(RR)
What is integrity?
The word integrity evolved from the Latin, meaning whole or complete. Integrity is the inner sense of 'wholeness' deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. We judge whether others 'have integrity' or not to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
“Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” C.S. Lewis
Integrity means following your moral or ethical convictions and doing the right thing in all circumstances, even if no one is watching you. Having integrity means that you are true to yourself and you avoid doing anything that will compromise your own standards.
"You are in integrity when the life you are living on the outside matches who you are on the inside." Alan Cohen
Why is integrity important for ourselves and others?
"An individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honour their word," Michael C. Jensen
Integrity and remaining true to ourselves is important for our health. Acting against our true nature sets up a dissonance that can be detrimental to our health at many levels etc. Whenever we compromise what we know is the right thing to do for the sake of what is expedient in the moment, there is always an unseen toll on us that often far outweighs the benefit derived from any apparent immediate gain.
"Without integrity, nothing works”
Integrity and honesty are essential in our relationships with others in order for there to be trust and connection. Integrity is essential to encouraging cultures of ethical decision making. The first step to a society based on integrity starts with our own selves. If we as individuals have strong, ethical integrity then we can make a positive contribution to the integrity of the communities in which we work, live and play and inspire others to do the same.
“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” Nelson Mandela
Commitment to living lives of integrity must be authentic and we should be a living embodiment of our values with all our intentions, actions, goals and relationships being consistently in alignment and reflecting our beliefs.
“On personal integrity hangs humanity’s fate” R Buckminster Fuller
Living a life of integrity is not a fixed mental state. It should be a life-long, organic process of continual self examination and reflection ( having a growth mindset ) and be seen through our actions.
How can we act with integrity?
"Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity." W. Clement Stone
We can not live lives of integrity part-time. We can't choose to do all of the right things some of the time or some of the right things all of the time. Acting with integrity requires a consistent commitment to doing all of the right things all of the time. Compromising integrity in any way compromises our integrity as a whole. We need to choose courage over comfort, character over convenience and self-respect over self-interest.
“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful”. Samuel Johnson
Integrity starts from within; with self-awareness. You can’t be whole or complete without first knowing who you are. We need to spend time discovering our true selves often hidden under layers of personas, limiting beliefs and masks. This requires honest assessment and introspection so that we can access the core of our being and integrate all the different pieces of ‘us’ into one complete whole. It also requires courage, because living in integrity means that we share the 'real us' with the world i.e. become a WYSIWYG person. It is vital to make time to reflect on what is important to us and why and then uphold those ideas, even when it is not convenient or to our benefit.
Understanding our thought processes and actions and knowing why we personally hold values makes it easier to act with integrity than just ‘going along’ with other people’s standards or society’s expectations. Integrity can stem from different things. For some people, it’s simply a personal goal, for others it could stem from a religious belief. While working on improving integrity, it’s important to look at what drives us personally towards living a life of integrity.
Integrity is much easier kept than recovered. It takes a lot of time to rebuild trust and gain forgiveness once trust is broken. It is always important to examine the integrity of our own actions particularly when we find ourselves making justifications to reconcile with our conscience. It’s easy to do the right thing when the right thing doesn’t cost or inconvenience us in any significant way. It’s not so easy when it requires giving up something that we want or value or knocks our ego.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King Jr
Living our values means we should not disengage from difficult conversations or turn a blind eye when we experience others compromising our beliefs. We need to have the confidence to express our principles and walk away if they are not respected.
"One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." Chinua Achebe
Our integrity is our own and it varies from one person to another. No one else can decide how we should live our lives and what moral principles we should uphold. To truly succeed in life and feel as we are doing so, we must find our own way of understanding integrity and act according to that.
We need to worry less about how others perceive integrity, and simply work more on improving our own.
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” Bob Marley
What affects our integrity?
No matter how small, every action we make, every word we speak on a daily basis reflects on our degree of integrity, including the things we often do unconsciously and habitually. Every single step/decision we make matters. The choices we can make will always be affected by our previous choices and those in turn will affect our future.
"When you are able to maintain your own highest standards of integrity – regardless of what others may do – you are destined for greatness." Napoleon Hill
We need to have a strong moral compass and make the ‘right’ choices in the beginning. It is easy for things to compound and we can find ourselves in a situation we don’t want to be in. It also becomes harder to stop and undo any harm we have done to ourselves and others if we continue to make choices without proper consideration. If left unchecked, our actions can spiral downward causing damage to our self-esteem and our general well-being deteriorates. The best way to manage our integrity is to manage all our decisions more carefully by making the time to think before acting in order to uphold our moral values and avoid problems in the future.
“Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones.” John Lennon
The company we keep will affect the ease with which we are able to live a life of integrity. There are significant costs (mental and physical) to associating with people and organizations that lack integrity. We should also reflect on the products we buy, the services we use or any investments we make (both monetary or simply in terms of our time and energy).
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
Are my decisions making me a better person?
Am I showing up as the person the world needs me to be i.e. the best version of me with integrity, character and courage?
How am I spending my time? Because what you do, defines the person you are and the legacy you create.
If you are interested in some more reading on the subject, here are a few links to get you started:
“Be Impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean”
Miguel Angel Ruiz