“Put your money where your mouth is.”
“To thine own self be true and… thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Our culture has a lot of common sayings about integrity. Some of our most revered national heroes include Abe Lincoln, George Washington, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Each of these leaders were known for their integrity. Their honesty and sincerity are legend.
But integrity goes beyond honesty: it is a form of courage, a willingness to do the right thing even though it isn’t the easiest or most popular thing to do.
Integrity is a willingness to do the right thing even though it isn’t the easiest thing.
Nowadays, however, the absence of integrity is most frequently discussed. And it’s often noted when referring to elected officials: “That politician has no integrity” or “He is talking out of both sides of his mouth” are commonly heard complaints.
As the Yiddish proverb goes, “A half-truth is a whole lie,” and it seems that most of what you hear in the media is half-truths – you’re just not sure which half it is.
But integrity is something you can experience and observe every day, from the playground to the boardroom.
– the child who stands up to the bully for herself or her friend
– the junior bookkeeper who blows the whistle on the fraudulent CFO
– even the person who has simply done wrong – and admits it
All these are examples of people with integrity, who are telling the truth and are willing to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences of their behaviors. They each are showing courage in the face of resistance.
You may see a lack of integrity in the world because our culture has come to value other measures of “success” more highly. We increasingly value financial rewards, competition, and acclaim rather than character and integrity.
So you see steroids used by athletes… journalists falsifying stories… and profits valued over people. What is right is often forgotten or ignored for what is convenient or profitable.
How do you live with integrity? Integrity can be found in private behaviors – stopping for a yellow light when you could have run it, for example.
You can also find integrity in behaviors that can affect any number of people:
…not laughing at a joke that promotes bigotry
…not participating in harmful gossip
…standing up for a family member or friend
…speaking your truth in the face of opposition.
Integrity can be thought of as doing the right thing, even when it is difficult or even when no one is looking.
Yet there is usually someone who is looking: a child, a student, a colleague, even yourself. One important thing about showing integrity is that you never regret it. Practicing integrity makes you feel good about yourself, and it also makes others feel good knowing about your behavior.
Your integrity can give others the courage to be honest, to be authentic, to be responsible for their words and actions.
Integrity is inspiring.
Integrity stands tall, walks confidently, looks honestly, and speaks from inner guidance.
Integrity doesn’t have to look over its shoulder, to speak in whispers, or to remember what it said to whom. As J.C. Watts said, “There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”
I like to think of integrity as contagious. Who inspires you with their integrity? Share with us in the comments as an excellent way of honoring that other person. You never know who you will inspire in return!