Please Pass the Integrity
There are days when I “window shop” on Google. I am not really searching for any specific topic so I just stroll through a variety of nouns or verbs or adjectives. It was on one of these virtual excursions that I came across a question: “What is it that integrity is a noun and not a verb?”
We’ve all been told to be careful what we post and it is a great warning. After all, once something is on the Internet, it tends to stay. The Internet is like a computer’s hard drive – very hard to completely erase. The question I found was posted almost ten years ago and received a variety of answers. The most interesting was this and yes, I am posting just exactly as it was written – typos and grammatical errors and all: “ I always thought of intergrity to be something that one can have, one can possess etc so that’s why its a noun. Its not something you can hold or touch, but you know it when you see it, or have it. Anyone can act nice, or act as though they are ethical and fair, but its not really who they are. It would take away the depth of the word, just something that anyone could do, like driving a car. Its not that special since just about anyone can do it.”
What I find most troubling is that last sentence so I wonder if it bothers you as well. The implication that integrity is “not that special since just about anyone can do it” is certainly an interesting viewpoint. And, I confess, one that makes me very sad.
You see, if something that anyone can do is not special then a great many things are included in that viewpoint. Since anyone can be happy, then being happy or making someone happy would not be “special”. Since anyone can be excited, then being excited or contributing to someone being or getting excited would not be “special”. Since anyone can be loved, then loving or making someone feel loved would not be “special”. I really do not want to exist in a world without happiness, love, or excitement. Would you?
We all have had those times where our world had too much drama but drama is different from excitement. The feeling we get upon receiving an unexpected surprise or present is excitement. Having someone tolerate you is very different from being loved. Experiencing the sheer joy of a beautiful afternoon or symphony or time spent with loved ones creates happiness. It certainly is better than cleaning the toilet!
Integrity is, by the way, something that is far too often in short supply. It is the sense of fairness and honesty that we all seek. It is living up to one’s morals and following one’s ideals. As Harper Lee wrote in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. There are many synonyms for the word “integrity” but it does not exist in an adjective or verb form. While that may not make sense, it actually does to me.
When we live with honor and steadfastness, being honest to that which we profess to believe, we are truly being true to ourselves and whole to our visions of life. We are, in the very best sense, living. At some point, the emphasis on living shifted from being complete to being trendy. We stopped asking ourselves is this what I want to be and settled for being what everyone else wanted to be. We stopped listening to our conscience and became blind followers to the “crowd” we shoes to follow.
Albert Einstein once said of integrity that “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters”. Perspective is vital but in the final analysis, truth is just that – truth, accurate, verifiable fact. Integrity has nothing to do with status or one’s address, clothing or the number of letters after one’s name. It is living a truthful life. It may not have a verb form but it encompasses many.
How we live the next twenty-four hours is up to us. Will we live it with integrity? If so, it will be a very special twenty-four hours indeed. Remember, before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”