Integrity 101

I hear a lot about lack of integrity on the part of individuals and organizations, so I thought I would throw in my two cents worth to make this integrity concept more easily understood.

These classic definitions of integrity appear at dictionary.com:

1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided;

A more action-oriented definition appeared on the marketing weblog wantrepreneur.

A great definition of integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.

Read the entire post, it’s worth your while.

I had written a comment to this post, but I found myself wanting to belabor the point a bit more because loss of integrity ruins so many promising companies, careers, and lives…

Integrity is basically wholeness and it can make one relatively fearless. Most small children have integrity. That’s why they often ask questions that make adults cringe and fumble for answers. Unfortunately, most lose their integrity at an early age.

Every lie, every misdeed, every hidden action puts another crack in the wholeness we started out with. Repairing a lack of integrity is a daunting process, as it involves coming clean with ourselves and with those we have deceived. Update: The final result is worth all of the pain and embarrassment involved.

Since our society tends to punish those who confess to wrongdoing, we learn at an early age to hide our transgressions. Thus we lose our integrity as we lie and mislead others to protect ourselves from punishment.

This is why a forthright child of four or five can become sly and sneaky a few years later. If the child never has a chance to come clean, the burden can become unbearable by the time they approach the teen years.

Integrity is the underpinning of existence. All the bluster in the world will not obscure its absence. Nor will good deeds make up for its lack. The doing of good deeds when you are seriously out integrity just makes the guilty secrets harder to conceal. The internal conflicts are unbearable.

People with sordid secrets fear those who have maintained their integrity. They will stop at nothing to discredit others who are ethical.

In some cases, they try to punish or tempt honest and ethical people into actions whch result in a loss of integrity. This attempt to degrade others may be a last-ditch effort to justify their own condition, but will only worsen it, as it is just one more despicable act to hide.

A lack of integrity is not easily concealed. It affects one’s attitude towards life and toward others. Often it makes a person withdraw from social contact when they would normally be reaching.

When there is so much to hide, one makes mistakes because it is hard to remember what has been said to whom. In addition, a pattern of behavior has been laid in through constant repetition where promises are frequently made to avoid embarrassing questions. One promises to do something rather than confronting the real issue.

This leads to a dwindling spiral in life. Once we observe a lack of integrity in someone, it colors every aspect of our relationship with that person. When a person doesn’t do what they promise, for example, or lies about what they have done, it sticks in our minds and we rarely trust them again. If they repeat the action later, we may cut them out of our lives without a backward glance.

Life is difficult enough without suffering from a lack of integrity. Get help, if necessary, to regain your full power as an individual.

A last observation: It took a long time for me to discover that people are as free as they have no secrets to hide.

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