When it comes to character, there is no greater compliment for anyone than hearing, “You have integrity.” The word is weighted with respect and trust and is rarely spoken lightly. Unfortunately, integrity these days seems a rare find in places where it should be the mother lode.
Integrity means honesty, trustworthiness, and consistency because of a core moral code that invites no compromise. It does not mean rigidity, however, or severe righteousness. Having integrity does not mean being close-minded about differing views in others. It does not mean seeing other perspectives as being wrong or deficient. Nor does it shun transparency, since it has nothing to hide. It is open to questions and criticism, readily admitting errors while offering a clear set of values and beliefs.
Integrity is an intensely personal quality that ideally should permeate one’s life – at work and play, in relationships, in one’s faith and feelings. It is tested constantly in conversation, financial matters, and everyday happenings. Prejudice, selfishness, and the pressures to please and to be accepted, seen as intelligent and successful are some of the tests faced by one’s integrity.
Unfortunately, the human factor can undermine anyone’s character. Too many give in to what works for their lesser self. A found wallet is a gift of fate; denting someone’s car and driving off is okay because it is “no big deal,” using others for selfish purposes. Judging and criticizing to enhance one’s own Ego are just “part of the game,” as is sabotaging competitors for that big promotion, etc. The list is endless.
On a larger scale, for those in positions of power, integrity requires not just sensitivity and respect for the position itself but for all those they serve. A person of integrity realizes that power is meant to be shared, particularly in a democracy. Despite the hierarchy of office, one’s integrity should keep one grounded and right-sized.
These days, our world needs integrity more than ever, especially in its leaders. They should remember that this world, this country does not belong to “the Few” but to all its citizens. There are always different perspectives; but those perspectives should challenge and teach, make better, not destroy what is good. Greatness without integrity lives on the shadow side of good.
The rest of us need our leaders to be people of integrity and to hold them to that standard, never settling for less. Integrity is the heart of truth and vice versa. We deserve both. Without integrity any nation, any life has a hole in its soul.