This past week I was listening to a speaker, and during his presentation he talked about integrity. I don't think it's a word that's used a lot--or when it is, I think it is rather "tossed out there", without much thought.
I was born to older parents. Mom was thirty-nine and a half years old, my dad was forty years old. Many of my school friends had grandparents the same age as my parents. So I was a generation "behind" my own when it came to looking at things progressively. However, that also afforded me being raised in a household where a "handshake was as good as a contract", where a person would "swear to his/her own hurt" rather than break a vow (which means, even if I find out later this is going to cost me dearly, I will still honor what I have said, and agreed to). And I witnessed my dad give his word, and carry it through even though it cost our family later. I watched my mom have to go back into the work force because of a vow my father upheld, even though it was his business partner who had broken his word.
So when this speaker brought up the word "integrity" my ears perked up. He defined integrity as a person doing the right thing, even when no one else is around, or would find out about it. I thought that was a pretty good way to look at it.
According to the dictionary, integrity is defined as follows:
1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility.
2) an unimpaired condition: soundness.
3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided: completeness
syn see honesty
As I was reading through these, I remember the articles just recently on the bridge that collapsed on I35 in Minneapolis, MN. There were questions about the bridge's integrity. It's soundness. I thought that was especially interesting when thinking of a person's integrity.
If a person's integrity isn't sound, many people can be hurt because of it. When you give your word, and someone relies on you--but you don't come through, you may say, "Hey, something came up, don't make such a big deal out of it". But now your integrity is at risk. Your friend or family member will be a little bit hesitant to take your word the next time. And you rationalize saying, "Hey, they're anal retentive, they need to just get over it, things happen, stuff changes--what did they expect me to do?" But my friend, it's you who have the problem--you're not sound, you're soul is showing cracks, it might be risky for someone to put much weight on your word. They may end up being dumped in the river and mangled under the debris.
How about your marriage vows? Where's your integrity when it comes to committing adultery? You're not only hurting your spouse, you have so little integrity, you're willing to hurt another person just to satisfy yourself and your desires, salving your hurts or inadequacies at their expense.
How about when you volunteer for a committee at school, your club or church? And when something better comes up, or you're too tired, you just don't show up. Where's your integrity?
I can think of so many times when my kids were little. We'd tell them all week long we were going to take them fishing on the weekend. My husband would end up having to work over-time, or his back would be hurting (this was before his back surgery), and we'd have to stay home so he could rest before beginning another arduous week. It got where when I did tell the kids we were going fishing, they'd be numb to it--I couldn't get them excited about it, because they felt they'd heard that all before.
Now as their mother I used to get so frustrated. Why couldn't they understand things happen, life doesn't always go as we plan? I felt it was a life lesson they needed to get--but also felt they should believe what I said and accept what I said. I really didn't understand what all was involved, or how to handle it myself.
I now realize I should NOT have said anything until I knew it was a fact. There were just too many times when what I said and what happened didn't match up. Yes things happen, but because of that it would have been better not to have spoken about it at all until I was sure of what I said.
Today I can see the same thing is true. Rather than talk about things that really are "out there" a ways, with no guarantees, I should just shut my mouth. My own integrity will be much more sound, if I speak less, and when I do speak, make sure I carry through with what I say--to swear to my own hurt, and make sure what I say comes about.
So I do agree, integrity is something that shows up, when you follow through when no one else will know or see. It takes integrity to do the right thing at all times. However, I also think today we have excused ourselves from carrying through with our word out in the world. It's time we begin stepping up to the plate and saying what we mean, meaning what we say, and seeing to it what we say is what is true. It's not someone else's problem, it's ours. Our word should be our bond.