“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
What happens when someone you thought was a person of integrity turns out to be someone you instantly learn you cannot trust, has no ethical values and doesn’t honor truth?
That is what happened to me recently and it left me with an abandoned, hollow feeling in my gut and in my consciousness. Does this mean that I should put up defenses to everyone in my life? No. It just means that this person I trusted I can no longer trust. Should I stop trusting everyone? No. Each of deserves a chance to start with an “A” and it is up to us to lose that rating.
As a life coach I ask myself how I can affect a moral, ethical mindset if I want to keep this friendship, relationship, workmanship. The quick answer is I can’t. The longer and more introspective answer is to live with integrity myself, always, and be the example. In coaching we call this “walking the walk”.
What is integrity?
Integrity: Adherence to moral and ethical principles; honesty; the state of being whole, undiminished; honorable.
Honor: fairness, distinction, respect, esteem from others and for others.
Grit: firmness of character, pluck, spirit.
“Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I love that the word grit lives inside of the word integrity. Grit is hard and specific and energetic and purposeful. Grit demands hard work and mindfulness. There are no fuzzy lines when grit takes hold of your spirit and actions. If you are by nature a moral, ethical, open-hearted person then integrity and grit are part of your core values. And so is honesty. I don’t think integrity can exist without honesty.
Do you know when you lie or are being dishonest?
Last week there was a story on Today.com about Diane Kaplan, a reporter who challenged herself to tell the truth in every kind of conversation every day. It has now been 2 years and she is still telling the truth.
“It wasn’t an intentional decision. I’ve always been a literal person, often to a fault; if I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it, even if it no longer serves my interests. The reality of doing this (experiment) is that it changes you internally as well. It’s tough to put into words except to say that you feel more pure. You start to like yourself more. You are effectively telling yourself that your actions are motivated by good values.”
Embellishing and “white” lies are 2 forms of lying and dishonesty and both of those words, when played out mean that you are not living with integrity. I used to embellish when I would re-tell a story simply because by doing so it added “meat” to the story and kept people riveted to what I was saying but I must admit that it didn’t feel very good. I’ve practiced at being more aware of when I feel the need to embellish and for years now I simply tell a story as is, no fancy stuff. Admittedly the story lacks something when told flat out unless something absolutely shocking happened but it’s okay because at least I have lived through something and now have a story to tell.
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use your power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
On their website, writers Brett and Kate McKay discuss, in their 4 part series, what it takes to live a life of integrity:
“When a great man falls from grace, we often wonder how he could have ever messed up so royally. The truth is that he didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit an egregious blunder. It started with a little fudging here, a tiny bit of lying there; from there he just kept on sliding down the slippery slope of compromise. Don’t compromise on the little things, and you won’t on the bigger ones.”
So, what are some examples of situations where you find you are feeling a drain on your integrity? Brett and Kate say:
“Every day we are faced with little decisions that reflect on our integrity. What’s okay to call a business expense or put on the company charge card? Is it really so bad to stretch the truth a little on your resume in order to land your dream job? Is it wrong to do a little casual flirting when your girlfriend isn’t around? If you’ve missed a lot of class, can you tell your professor a family member died? Is it bad to call in sick to work (or to the social/family function you’re dreading) when you’re hung over? Is it okay to pirate movies or use ad block when surfing the web?”
While writing this short post I thought about how I don’t live with the integrity I want to live with. I find that I behave with integrity in most of my life but when it comes to standing up and speaking for myself I am lacking. I allow other people to speak for me in some very important situations. Because of this I find that my goals truly are hard to reach.
Just as a side note, yes, I have called in sick to work even though I wasn’t sick. I think the mindset that gets us off the hook for that phone call is called “taking a mental health day.” How we justify our lack of personal integrity is also something to be aware of.
In the face of all of this information now weighing heavily on your conscience (sorry, but I had to write this article), what are some things you can do to start to live a life of integrity?
1- Along the lines of a pro/con list or a moral code of ethics, create an integrity list or integrity code. Things you will absolutely not do and absolutely will do that honors yourself, others and your ethical and moral veracity. Display this list like you would the Ten Commandments, in a place that you will see it every day.
2- Where do your personal values live? Finding out your values will act as a guide in helping you stay the course of a life of integrity, honesty, and authenticity.
3- Get down and dirty. If ever you could practice honesty this is the place, right here, right this minute. Be as honest with yourself as you can be and highlight the areas in your life where you are not living with integrity. Everything about your life and your values starts within you so get to your truth and start to become who you want to see yourself to be.
4- As the old adage goes, “Tell the truth so that you don’t have to remember what you said.”
5- Wear your integrity badge of honor for all to see. Just like tying a piece of string to your finger to remind you of something you shouldn’t forget, wear something every day that reminds you of your integrity code.
Is there hope for us mere mortals? There is no such thing as perfect. The best we can hope for is perfectly imperfect with a side of trying like hell.
So if you are feeling as if integrity is just too hard to handle here is what Brett and Kate advise:
“Obviously, not everyone who makes one bad choice ends up morally depraved and utterly crooked. Many of us are able to make a single mistake, or even several, but then get back on track again. This is because various conditions not only make it more or less likely that we’ll make that first dishonest decision, but also increase or decrease our chances of turning ourselves around once we start down an unethical road.”
My interpretation of this last statement: Practice makes almost perfect.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Call To Action: Be honest now…
How do you tend to embellish when you tell a story? Where is the trigger point?
What does it mean to you to have integrity?
Who do you see when you look in the mirror? Who do you want to see?
In what ways are you a 24/7 honest person? Where else can you improve?
How are you someone others can count on without question or hesitation?
What other ways can you live a life filled with integrity?
Please feel free to add to my list; oh and do let me know how you are doing. We can all learn from each other’s successes.