Integrity is telling myself the truth.
And honesty is telling the truth to other people.
— Spencer Johnson
When I start writing a series of postings I like to have some idea where it is going to go – or end up. I have to admit when I did the posting on integrity and care I was not sure if there was more that I was going to add. Then the thoughts and statements and feelings simply wouldn’t let me go. I began to look at my own life and realized that much of what I’ve been posting about has also to do with integrity.
It’s a great thing to be who we are. When, as I did with ZZ, I give up my own purpose/identity to please someone else – I have placed huge walls around myself. I will begin to lose my own self, my own identity and my own joy. I guess it comes down to if we are going to please others, we need to please ourselves.
This may seem as selfish – or worse – a stance of not caring, but nothing could be further from the truth. Living who we are is not selfish. It is what we are to do, the reason for our being. To be asked to give any of that up for someone’s “pleasure” is selfish.
It also can require a great deal of courage, after all – there are so many around who know more about what it “best” for us or think that where we are headed is a great error. While they mean well, we know what we are to do – although the way we are to do it might be somewhat difficult to see at times.
And it takes a sense of purpose and courage to be able to say to those around – “I can appreciate what you are telling me, I can respect how you feel – but I can not accept it.”
But integrity also means living in truth – with others, and with myself. It’s a willingness to acknowledge who I am, what I have done (taking responsibility) and what needs to be done to get where I want to go.
This article says it much better than I could (please forgive the long quote):
The opposite of integrity, etymologically, is privation, deprivation, depravity, perversion, rupture, destruction, corruption. That which takes away from the whole entity or system or organ, from wholeness, wholesomeness, holism, soundness, sanity, ecology, cohesion, idealism, interconnectedness. In other words, breakdown.
The term can be applied in the moral, rational, or physical domains of human endeavor. Moral integrity refers to a cohesive set of principles, rational integrity to a cohesive logic, and physical integrity to a cohesive physical structure. In each sense integrity means wholeness, soundness, consistency, coherence.
So when we say something lacks integrity we mean, literally, it is falling apart. It has lost the critical elements, balance, connectedness that kept it together. It has come unglued.
When we say our government lacks integrity we mean they say one thing and do another. They lie. They use the ends to justify any means. They corrupt terms like ‘freedom’ and ‘patriotism’, and the entire moral framework under which they presume to operate crumbles.
When we say our electoral system lacks integrity we mean it has been so perverted by political partisanship, gerrymandering, unreliable and insecure voting systems and ad hominem attacks designed to confuse and mislead a dumbed-down electorate, that it is no longer capable of reliably reflecting the will of the people.
When we say big business lacks integrity we mean they use pursuit of profit and the ‘maximization of shareholder value’ as an excuse to distort the facts, lie to their customers, cheat and gouge their customers, sue their customers, screw and extort concessions from their front-line employees, wreck the environment, cripple the holistic economies of the communities and countries in which they operate, pervert constitutions to obtain ‘rights’ that trump the rights and freedoms of individuals, bribe public officials for favours, fraudulently obtain concessions and subsidies — all in contravention of critical but forgotten clauses of the corporate charters that we the people granted them as a privilege.
When we say the legal system lacks integrity we mean it allows millionaires to commit murder and fraud with impunity but condemns the poor to death even on falsified or inadequate evidence, it substitutes the rule of man for the rule of law, it allows judges to make laws instead of upholding them, it metes out wildly different sentences for the same crime, or for no crime at all, just the mere suspicion of some bureaucrat, and it allows and even encourages abrogation of fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms out of extremist political zeal or expediency.
When we say the media lack integrity we mean they slough off their responsibility to inform, sacrifice balance and fairness for ratings, dumb down and pander to their audience because it’s cheap and profitable, pass off propaganda and unsubstantiated information from governments and corporate sponsors as fact out of laziness and greed, and buy up and shut down smaller competitors that were doing the job they’re supposed to be doing.
I could go on and talk about the education system, the health system, drugs and bribery in the amateur sports system, and many other examples, but I think you get the idea.
It is not surprising that when our public institutions, the very fabric of our democracy and constitutional liberalism, lack integrity, and corporations also lack integrity, we as individuals start to do the same. If the government lies to achieve its own ends, why shouldn’t we? If Enron execs steal millions and defraud the government, why shouldn’t we? If the legal system allows immigration officers and security forces total discretion to take the law into their own hands, why shouldn’t we? If corporations can use their oligopoly power to fix prices at exorbitant levels, why shouldn’t we use whatever means are at our disposal to get their stuff free? If the voting system is rigged, why bother to vote or even learn about the issues?
This is third world logic, the logic that says ‘trust no one’, the insane logic that only applies when rights, freedoms, justice, the rule of law, and democracy are all pipe dreams, perpetually subverted to money and power. Alas, integrity, like the democracy and constitutional liberalism it underpins, takes time and struggle to build, but is fragile and easy to destroy. We have taken for granted all the structures that are built on integrity, and we are losing them. The lack of integrity of our leaders — of all major political parties, and in entertainment, sports, business, every field where there is fame, power and money to be had — is causing us to give up hope, faith and trust in the institutions they represent.
There is an answer, but it’s not an easy one. We need first to understand that the way we choose to live as individuals is a reflection of our self-respect, and that personal integrity is all about taking personal responsibility for our future, our actions, our decisions, the way we live and, to the extent we can, for the whole world in which we live. It is all about not leaving this up to god, or the fates, or the government, not ‘buying off’ that responsibility with whatever money or power we might have, and not blaming others in order to shrug off that responsibility…
–David Pollard 12/5/2003