“We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.”- Michelle Obama
Integrity is described as:
the quality of being honest and fair
the state of being complete or whole
Both definitions speak to an interactive paradigm; the first with others, the second within ourselves. Consider the relationships with those in your circles. Step back and observe, as if watching a film. A good example is the holiday classic starring Jimmy Stewart: “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Reel by reel, what do you see? In the case of George Bailey, he always seemed to ‘do the right thing,’ even it was at his own expense. He measured his actions against his values.
What are the values you hold dear?
- Say what I mean, mean what I say; but don’t say it mean. As a recovering co-dependent who would often tiptoe around the truth so as not to step on toes, I have become honest in my interpersonal interactions.
- Being a woman of my word. When I tell someone I will do something, I do it, or if not possible, re-negotiate.
- Taking my ‘inventory‘ (as in 12 step rhetoric) throughout the day and determining where I am off the mark.
- Course correcting as needed. According to pilots, airplanes are off course 99% of the time and it takes a skilled aviator to keep the craft aloft and have it arrive at its destination safely. Hopefully, my trajectory is direct more often than that.
- Being aware of when I need to step up if someone is being treated unfairly or otherwise inappropriately. I saw a story on social media about how a woman intervened when a child was being abused in public. Some of the responses were praising her, while others were that she needed to mind her own business. Other people (especially children) ARE our business. As a social worker who is a mandated reporter, it is my repsonsibility to get involved.
- Helping out if I see someone in danger. A few years ago, I was driving and saw a man stumbling across a road, shirtless on a hot summer day. I pulled the car over and approached him. He appeared to be intoxicated or experiencing the effects of the heat and was dehydrated. He fell to the curb and I asked if he could speak and tell me what was happening. His speech was slurred. I called 911 and an ambulance came. I sat with him until help arrived. Other people drove by.
- Don’t gossip. Unless it is spreading good news about someone, and what I appreciate or admire about them, I keep it to myself. On the occasions when I have shared about unhappiness with another, it has been to find a solution to the dilemma and with those I trust to maintain confidentiality about our conversation. In that same realm, people in my life know that what they share with me will remain with me. As a clinician and priveleged listener, I hold so many bits of information in my head that I am honor bound not to share.
- As is the Boy Scout rule: “Leaving the campground better than I found it,” with regard to relationships.
- Cleaning up after myself literally and figuratively. That means putting things back in order when they get ‘messy’.
- Simple guidelines that fall into that category:
- If you open it, close it.
- If you take it out, put it away.
- If you carry it into a room, take it back out when you leave.
- If you drop it, pick it up.
- If you break it, repair it or replace it.
If I borrow something, including money, which I have unfortunately needed to do on occasion throughout my life, return it when agreed upon, or (once again), renegotiate. I have, from time to time, as a single parent and solo-preneur, found myself in circumstances in which that has become necessary. It keeps my conscience and relationships intact when I keep my agreements. Sadly, I have been on the other side of that arrangement and have loaned money that has never been returned and never been renegotiated for and have heard from friends that they too have had that experience. It can leave us feeling taken advantage of and questioning our discernment about and relationship with the people involved.
All of this is not to indicate that by any stretch of the imagination, I am to be nominated for sainthood. By way of coming clean (which is also a value I hold), there was a time in my life in which integrity and I were estranged. Paradoxically, I attribute it to my co-dependent, people pleasing tendencies by which I said and did what I thought people expected from me. I may have been pleasing them, but not myself, since I had to live with the uncomfortable, gut churning, uh-oh, I’m going to be found out feelings, it would evoke.
As don Miguel Ruiz, author of the Four Agreements, shares:
“Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”
When asking others what integrity means to them, their responses included:
“Remembering ‘what would love do?’ ”
“To me, integrity is living by the same rules I would hope others live by – even if no one is looking and I would never be caught. It is also continuing to live by those rules if someone else does not. Another’s behavior does not excuse mine. Besides, if I resort to their tactics, I become like them and my integrity goes out the window. I also think integrity is being willing to risk losing a relationship by telling another what they need to hear rather than taking no risk and saying nothing.”
“I make it a rule, even when it is painful (especially when it’s painful!) to be as honest with my partner as I am with myself, and as honest with myself as I am with my partner. I don’t know if it is possible to act contrary to integrity in the relationship if I do that.”
“Deciding what your core values are like honesty, respect, etc and sticking to them whether you’re applying them to how you treat yourself or anyone else. No double standards, personal responsibility, and a commitment to stick to the standards you want to see in the world even when no one else is looking or would ever know if you let things slide. Standing up for what you belief in and not just expecting everyone else to deal with it all or sort it out for you.”
“To listen, speak, and act from the space where I feel I am connected with God.”
As I integrate my core values, I am able to live in integrity.