Integrity is a word often invoked yet seldom defined.
If you look up its definitions you’ll find predominantly, “having strong moral principles”; the Cambridge Dictionary adds, “that you refuse to change”, worth noting.
It comes from the same Latin word as integrate – specifically, “make one.” This is making all the pieces fit together like cogs in a watch. (You have a digital watch? What way is “clockwise” for you?)
“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” ---Zig Ziglar
The whole question goes directly to the heart of Character. The more you’re in integrity, the stronger your character. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of “the content of [your] character…” Indeed it does have content.
I was in a Personal Development course once that had an innocent looking sign hanging from the ceiling some distance behind and overhead of the podium. Each session it moved a little closer and was printed a little bigger. The third session the facilitator asked what was changing about the presentation area, and several of us had noticed the sign. It said, in capital letters, “TELL THE TRUTH”. “Yes,” the moderator said, “telling the truth is one of the unavoidable principles of any personal growth…” This stirred a surprisingly noisy objection from some in the program. “That’s the other thing to consider,” the moderator said, “you need to tell the truth to yourself, that’s all we’re saying. If you want to lie to someone else, that’s up to you.”
Most of us have experienced the difficulties with lying: you have to remember them and be constantly vigilant lest the truth slip out. Or it’s obvious you’re lying and you look foolish at best.
Integrity means doing the Right Thing.
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” ― Oprah Winfrey
This has its own difficulties:
Do you always know what the Right Thing is? I don’t: should I help this person - are they going to take advantage of me?
We say Look Inward for guidance – some of us can’t hear it, sometimes no matter how hard we look it eludes us.
We can ask the question, What are your morals? That’s probably closer, but with all due respect, that question is loaded.
Our current world view of many cultures clearly demonstrates that “Doing the Right Thing” means very different things to different people. And the ones that hold a view that is different from yours often think that their standard of Integrity is in fact superior to yours. You need to uphold your own values in the face of this; remember the only person you can control is yourself.
“If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.” ― Gordon A. Eadie
You can hold that principle from anywhere on the political and social spectrum.
Where does that leave us in pursuit of integrity?
Our morals should be informed. Yes, I encourage you to take some time out and consider your moral principles – what is their effect on you, and what on others? Are they True? Have you considered them from different angles, and adjusted your sights accordingly? Do you consistently hold to those standards in your life?
Because, humankind has been examining this concept, not always by name, from probably as early as they recognized they were making judgments. There is an infinity of resources for examining, and aligning, your moral compass available from the library or the Internet. You prepare your meals – spend some time in your morals kitchen, the ingredients are free.
“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” ---Samuel Johnson
Becoming an integrated person, from the spiritual perspective, requires balancing the Spirit and the Human.
Regardless of your starting point, in most cases, movement toward integrity is a process. It involves trial and error, unless you’re one of the fortunate few who seem born with integrity, or suddenly struck by it.
Integrity is bringing everything you know and want to feel forward into every moment. Impossible goal? It’s a process… “If you want to live in love,” one of my teachers used to say, “then be love.”
In today’s world we are facing a crisis of integrity. Many world leaders seem out of integrity. We have varying options in those several societies, but what we can all do is carve out our own path of integrity and live it as fully as possible every day.
Living in integrity is a true, workable platform contributing to your happiness.
“If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. If you do have integrity, nothing else matters.” ---Robert S. Mueller III
This is one place in life where you get to draw the lines on your journey from who you Happen to be to who you Want to be. Measure twice and cut once – but be sure to measure twice.