Doing what is good, right and proper even at personal cost.
“Integrity” is a buzzword everybody throws around. Politicians, ironically, talk about Integrity all the time. Business leaders often claim Integrity as a core value which will determine their personal success and the success of their organizations. But, few people spend the time to think about what Integrity really is.
Some people define Integrity as “Your words and actions are the same.” They are correct! But, it is more. Others say, “Integrity means doing the right thing when nobody is looking.” This is also true. But, it is more. Integrity comes from the root word “Integer” which means “whole or pure.” This means the true definition of Integrity is more than the above statements. To be whole or pure means part-time Integrity is not Integrity.
Integrity is extremely difficult! It’s hard because we lack Integrity if we only exercise it when we believe we can’t be hurt by it. There are plenty of people who are ready to exercise Integrity –and will claim to be a person of Integrity—right up until the moment they realize they could be hurt by it. When they realize there could be a personal or professional cost to pay, their Integrity becomes disposable.
We cheapen Integrity if we speak of the importance of it, yet tell a white-lie when we are challenged by a co-worker or spouse. Likewise, we cheapen it if we cut corners or operate in ethical gray areas.
A white-lie is just a euphemism which makes us feel better about being liars. Working in the ethical gray areas is simply a way of blurring the line between right and wrong. Believing we are in the right, just because we did not break the law or a rule, does not mean we are not also unethical in situations which aren’t spelled out.
We have to be honest with ourselves when we look in the mirror. I spent many years in my life with an inflated perception of the strength of my Integrity. I was sure I would be ready for the big Integrity tests ahead of me, even though I was in the habit of telling white-lies, working in the gray area, and staying out of trouble with the law.
With such an attitude, I made choices which slowly led me further and further away from the person I knew I was supposed to be. Each time I made a small choice to cheapen my Integrity, it made it easier to make that same choice again. Over time, I found myself in a place where I looked up and said, “How did I get here? Who have I become?”
I had been naïve to think the little choices in life did not matter. The idea that a muscle is ready to lift 300 pounds when it was not consistently exercised by lifting 50 pounds was foolish. My small choices left me unprepared for the big Integrity tests I would inevitably face.
But the good news for me—and for all of us— is the fact we can all begin changing our habits by making a new choice today. Though it was a long journey, I realized with each new day and new choice, I got closer and closer to being the person of Integrity I was meant to be.
Exercising Integrity is not complicated, but it is hard. Why? Because often there is a cost to acting on it. The simple question remains. Are we prepared to pay the price? The cost of passing those small tests is usually small, but they are still challenging.
With each small choice, we prepare daily for those big tests which are sure to come. Are we ready?
Dig Deep Questions:
What examples of “part-time” Integrity have you witnessed recently? What do you wish the individuals involved had done instead?
What one area of Integrity do you personally find the most challenging?
Exercising Integrity takes work and is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Integrity daily, which is why we have created FREE tools and resources to guide your journey.
To make it easy to keep the definition of Integrity visible on your screens and devices, we would like to share our FREE Integrity backgrounds for desktop and mobile available for download at: https://www.becomingaleaderofcharacter.com/tools-resources