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Integrity: How Do You Measure Up?
What is integrity? Most people would say that integrity is a quality, a personality trait, a testament of character. More than this however, integrity is a way of being, a consistent pattern of action. The word integrity stems from the Latin adjective “integer,” meaning “complete” – it is the sum of one’s actions, some would simply call it virtuousness. A person with integrity lives by a certain code – he knows his limits, he has drawn a line between what is acceptable and unacceptable and he walks that line. How do we know that we have it? Read on.
1. Do you listen to your conscience?
A person of integrity follows his conscience, and will not be coerced or provoked into acting otherwise. Simply following traffic rules, despite the absence of any cameras or traffic enforcers, is a sign of integrity. At work, if you do not agree to a policy that would be harmful to the company, or unfair to its members, you have integrity. If you do not take part in a cover-up of a corporate blunder, you have integrity.
2. Do you keep your promises?
A person with integrity hardly ever breaks a vow – and only does so under extreme duress or given extenuating circumstances. Part of his value system would be to commit to something and to see it through, despite potential personal sacrifice. There is a purity of intention in someone with integrity; whether or not s/he succeeds, s/he will make a great effort. At work, if you deliver exactly on your commitments, then you are regarded as a person with integrity.
3. Do you believe in the higher principle?
Integrity is not about being honest 100% of the time, but telling the truth when it is called for, and withholding the truth when it is necessary. Say, a confidence is divulged that could possibly cause harm to the confidant or harm someone else. The person with integrity could convince the person away from his destructive path, convince that person to act with integrity. Or he may decide to break the confidence (thereby saving a life) and may still keep his integrity. A devotion to the higher principle is part of having integrity.
4. Do you give credit where credit is due?
A person with integrity acknowledges the contribution of other people, even if it downplays his own accomplishments. The person with integrity will not steal an idea or pretend that he was the source; instead he will deflect attention from him and give credit where credit is due.
5. Do you correct a mistake made?
A person with integrity, quite simply, apologizes if he has committed a mistake. He is also driven to make reparation, however way he can. So it is true, that integrity can be lost but it can also be regained.
For most of us, integrity is an aspiration – something that we work hard to maintain, as we grapple with everyday decisions. It is a continuous struggle. One way to develop a sense of integrity is to confront your own actions head-on. Try meditation. Seek a safe and quiet space where you can contemplate on your past actions, and observe whether you have lived by a discernible moral or ethical code. Ask yourself honestly, what is truly important to you. See your way clear to what purpose drives your everyday life. You are who you are because of the choices you made in the past, but you can become someone else, someone much better, because of the choices you make in the present and in the future.