As I’ve thought about integrity and honesty. I realized that I have to order what I consider to be my core values – and it’s no accident that I should list integrity first (by the way, that’s where the Air Force Academy places it). Integrity for me, is where all my other values will fall or stand. Without integrity my reasons for doing anything can justifiably be questioned – and doubted. Without integrity my personal quest of excellence also comes under a cloud.
Some time ago, I read that integrity is the willingness to do what’s right even when no one is looking. Without someone around, I may feel it acceptable to do whatever I want, how I want – without any concern about consequence. Of course, there still are consequences for actions – but the result might not be all that public, at first. But – as some major leaders have discovered, failure to have integrity in private can be exposed in public. But, to hold onto my values – no matter what the situation, is integrity in action.
But this also isn’t a full definition of integrity. If I turn again to the dictionary: “uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” As I’ve said before, integrity defined this way is controlling. It implies following standards set by only by others. This also leads to the acrimonious discussions of almost any subject currently being debated. Even between people who should be somewhat in agreement, the arguments become almost self-serving and divisive. It implies that whatever I hold absolute, everyone else should. And without going into detail, we call can think of serious incidents, decisions and problems that have resulted in situations that never should have happened. Or, shouldn’t have happened the way they did if people were working in TRUE integrity.
An addition to the definition could be “the state of being whole and your true self”. Which could mean – standing against the “crowd” to hold onto what I believe to be right. So, going back to the comment above – integrity is not only doing what’s right when no one is looking, but doing what’s right when other people are watching.
My reactions have to be based on what is true, not fantasy, and I have to make commitments based on my vision or purpose. In short, my life has to be aligned with the big picture. Being responsible is handling whatever comes along and making adjustments so problems don’t repeat themselves. Responsibility and integrity is not about blame.
Far more difficult than knowing what is right is doing what is right. Doing the right thing is not always easy, but it is always right.
–George S. May (founder of the May Company)
This quote gets at the real meaning of integrity. When doing right thing starts to be in conflict with the easy way, or is at “odds” with “the way we’ve always done it,” is when our integrity is confronted. My integrity is really called upon when doing the “right thing” makes me subject to criticism, ridicule, or second guessing.
But it struck me, that this kind of integrity is extremely personal. I do not have to require MY integrity of someone else – only that they follow their integrity.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
–-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Core values on paper are nice, but without putting those values into action they are nothing more than words. Dr. King’s quote highlights the purpose of having core values, which is to use those values to shape my decisions and actions. And because of the “big picture” I avoid the my-way-only type of reaction or decisions.
more to come on this
I’m grateful for a friend explaining
the Air Force Academy code