Do You Practice Personal Integrity in Your Life?
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Stress Management Coaching
This fall, I am teaching a local university course on education policy, issues, and ethics. It is one of my favorite courses. I love introducing my students to the complexities of ethics. There may be shades of gray in how people behave occasionally, but there is rarely a shade of gray when it comes to doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
Ethical behavior is what sets people with integrity apart from everyone else.
We tend to admire people who hold themselves to high ethical standards. We know we can trust them. And we do.
All that said, in our modern world, ethics is sometimes treated as a quaint idea from a long-ago past. People often don't tell the truth these days because it isn't convenient. They cheat because it's easier than putting in the effort and doing the work.
You might remember a couple of years ago when some celebrities were caught bribing their kids' way into college. They paid for other people to take SATs. They created a false narrative about their extracurricular sports. Members of the college faculty took the bribes and facilitated the scam. It was shocking to some of us. But, sadly, it wasn't at all shocking to others.
My dad was fond of saying a man was only as good as his word.
He grew up in a time when a handshake was as solid as a written contract. Those days seem long ago, for sure.
But I want to believe that integrity is still something we should value and strive to incorporate into our lives. Indeed, our greatest leaders have been able to exhibit high standards of integrity.
Of course, no one is perfect. We all falter on occasion. We all make mistakes. But I would like to believe that it is still true that one of the most valuable human traits to have is integrity.
Integrity is often sought after in our closest relationships, whether they be personal or professional. After all, who wants to marry someone you know you cannot trust? Why would you go into a business with someone that you know has a reputation for cheating?
How can you live with someone who is a frequent liar and manipulator of the truth?
Practicing integrity means you always do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
You don't need someone to know what you did. You don't need to be rewarded for being honest and trustworthy. You are honest and trustworthy because it is important to you that you embody integrity as a value.
If you haven't considered what it takes to be a person with integrity lately, I invite you to look at the following traits. They may help you to crystallize what it means to embrace integrity in your own life.
1. People with integrity take responsibility for their actions. They take responsibility even when things go wrong even more than when they go right. They are willing to own their mistakes. As soon as they notice their error, they want to address it. They want to fix it if they can. They will bear the consequences if they can't. Regardless, it is important to them that they make every effort to make it right as soon as possible.
2. People with integrity are always honest. To have integrity, you must be honest in all situations, no matter what. People with integrity perceive lying as a betrayal of trust. They know that not telling the truth is corrosive to every relationship over time. Even when the truth is hard to tell or difficult to hear, they can be counted on to be honest.
3. People with integrity are selfless. Those with great integrity put the needs of others before themselves. In fact, they take pride in putting others first. They are true servant leaders. They don’t help others for praise or admiration. They do it because it is a value for them to put the needs of others ahead of their own.
4. People with integrity don’t jump to conclusions. They give others the benefit of the doubt and don’t jump to conclusions. They listen to what the other person has to say, and they don’t make snap judgments about someone without all the information they need. Those with integrity look for the good in other people. They assume good intentions first.
5. People with integrity are always respectful. They know how to respect others from the start. They understand that respect is something everyone should be offered from the beginning. Respect isn't dependent on one's station in life or how much money they have. All human beings merit being respected by virtue of their being human. People with integrity don't consider people to be "less than" because they don't have a lot of money or lack education. They offer respect to everyone equally.
6. People with integrity are reliable. If they say they are going to do something, they do it. In fact, they are so reliable that they will likely show up early. Chances are they will get the job done before the deadline. Procrastination and forgetfulness are terms they don't practice. Being flakey and undependable are not the traits of someone with integrity.
7. People with integrity are trustworthy. Those who possess integrity often have friends who can always come to them for help. They never let their friends down, and they don’t back away from promises or obligations they have agreed to.
8. People with integrity are humble. They don’t need to brag about their accomplishments. Their validation comes from within as opposed to coming from others. They don't need awards or trophies. They just quietly go about their business doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do.
9. People with integrity are willing to apologize. Just as they own up to their mistakes, they recognize when an apology is needed. And they offer it as fast as possible. They know that making a mistake is not a character flaw. It's part of being human. When they catch themselves making the occasional mistake, they want to make it right with a heartfelt and sincere apology.
10. People with integrity are kindhearted. Last but not least, those who exude integrity are often very kind natured. They don’t feel the need to gossip or tear others down. If you ask them for help, this type of person will be there with open arms.
If you want to practice integrity, then try to emulate these traits as much as possible. Understand why you value integrity and make sure you want it for yourself for the right reasons.
Remember, the true importance of integrity is the best you that you can be without the need for someone watching you. You don't need recognition to do the right thing. To be a person of integrity, you need to explore deeply held principles and values. You hold yourself to higher standards than you hold others. And you become someone that others learn they can trust and rely on.