Recently someone told me that someone else had said that you could always trust me because I have integrity. What a wonderful complement.
Acting with integrity sometimes involves making decisions that to the outsider may not make sense, but they make sense to you because they are consistent with your core values.
One of the things I find myself saying from time to time is: “At the end of the day I have to live with myself.” By this I mean that there may be a more convenient thing to do, there may be an easier option, but doing the right thing is the important thing, even if other people think I am being silly or stupid.
I think of this as having a ‘seamless life’. By this I mean that your behaviour, your thoughts, your emotions and your values are consistent with each other. This standard is not always easy to achieve.
Let me give you an example of behaviour that I have seen that I feel does not show this seamlessness or integrity – moaning about the poor state of the roads/ education/ social services/hospitals, and at the same time not declaring all your income for tax purposes.
I was with someone when they gladly signed a petition to reduce the speed limit for traffic through a village, and then two days later drove through the same village exceeding the existing speed limit.
We can often see how much integrity we have in our lives by the way we respond to people we don’t like or those distant multinational companies. I was talking to a friend who felt it was OK to use a pirate copy of a Microsoft program because he didn’t like Bill Gates, and anyway “Bill Gates has lots of money”. But the way we interact with people we don’t like or people who are wealthy (and wouldn’t miss the money we keep from them) tells us about how flexible our integrity is.
Integrity involves doing the right thing even when you know you won’t be found out. It’s easier to play by high rules when you know you will be punished or criticised if you don’t. But what about when nobody will see you? It is at times like that your integrity shows.
Integrity should be central to our lives, not a luxury add-on when times are easy. Maybe I should have titled this piece “Living in integrity”, because that is what we need to do. Living a life of integrity will test you, because it means that often you won’t be doing what other people do, wanting what other people want, or thinking like other people think.
It isn’t easy to live with integrity; we all fall down, but living this way is the best way to live and allows you to sleep with a clear conscience at the end of the day.
(c) Jane Thurnell-Read 2018