A poem, written during the depression by Dale Wimbrow, quickly gained popularity and is still recited today. It was one of my grandpa’s favorites; and being an Irishman at heart, he loved to sing and recite poetry. Reading it today makes my heart leap, knowing that my inner bonnie lass feels the same.
Do you recall stories of your grandparents? I remember mine talking about being able to get a loan from a bank based on your name and a handshake. It is incredible, the amount of security that could come from one simple word. INTEGRITY. Life was about looking at the man in the glass and being proud of what you saw.
Frederick Douglass put it this way, “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” Abraham Lincoln said, “ I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”
Such stirring words from men who helped shape this country into what it is today! Integrity is something that has to be molded, and continually practiced. It is not something that comes easily to most people, but those who do have integrity are revered. Names like Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and more recently Malala Yousafzai stand in our minds and hearts for their strong stand to show integrity.
An anecdote about Gandhi’s integrity involves a mother who brought her young boy to meet the great man. She asked Gandhi to tell the boy never to eat sugar because of its effects on his health and teeth. Gandhi refused, instead asking the mother to bring the boy again 30 days later. When she returned, Gandhi did as she wished, telling the boy to stay away from sugar. The mother wondered why Gandhi had not just done that on the first visit, and Gandhi replied that he had still been eating sugar at their first visit and did not feel comfortable telling others to abstain from something that he enjoyed.
Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, or moral uprightness. It is a personal choice to hold one’s self to consistent standards. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can stand in opposition to hypocrisy, in that judging with the standards of integrity involves regarding internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding within themselves apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs. 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. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.’ (Wikipedia)
Psychology today published an article about seven traits that they found in people which characterized an increase in integrity.
- The ability to apologize to someone below your status.
Parents who can see that they were wrong, and apologize to their children. As a parent myself, I am SO far from perfect. Any manual that came on child rearing must have been thrown out before I got to the bookstore, because I certainly make plenty of mistakes. My children have heard it all from me, but I am not above telling them that I was wrong. I often feel like I should hand out a ticket, with an assigned apology number. “I was lacking chocolate today, and I acted like a….. Well I am going to say “BAD MOM” here, because saying I was acting like a child would be insulting to my kids who are often more mature than I seem to be. If we act out, and we punish unjustly or snap at kids, we have gone too far. Being able to apologize to a child, or anyone who is under your authority shows integrity.
2. Bosses highlighting their staffs’ accomplishments and downplaying their own.
A boss with integrity doesn’t need the limelight. They recognize their role as a leader, and there is no need for power plays. Managers and bosses often come across as sadistic, narcissistic, or even sociopathic, but the boss with integrity brings out the best in others. A boss, in my mind, plays a role similar to the parent in the first scenario. One in this position already knows their worth, and that they have advantages others don’t get. Therefore, the boss with integrity will play up other’s accomplishments! Not only does this make the boss look good, for highlighting the work of others, it is also benefiting him or her, because workers will give more to the company for said recognition! My boss is really great at this, as each month we get together twice and he spends five to ten minutes recapping the good that is happening in the building. We learn about each other’s successes, and I know I personally look forward to him singling me out and talking about the work I am doing.
3. Romantic partners who boycott name-calling or other vicious behaviors.
I know what we are all thinking! Are these people for real?! You can not go on social media today without seeing examples of people who LACK INTEGRITY. This category however, I think is admirable. My own spouse is very conscientious about not getting into situations where others could be hurt. Just to give him a little pat on the back, I think it should be known that he is pretty level headed, whereas I am hot under the collar most days. He is my sounding board, and I will write an email, or get ready to post- and then I will hand over my device or the laptop and say, “Here. Delete this for me.” He usually reads them, gets a good chuckle, and then tells me that they just aren’t worth it. Doesn’t he know that I am fuming?! Yes, but he helps me see clearly. So, if you are the one who boycotts, my hat is off to you!
There will always be those who fight, but those who have learned to not be unfair, and who stop short of name calling will always have a better relationship. Being able to show a higher level of humanity and kindness are traits that those with integrity have.
4. Drivers who (almost) never use the horn or drive aggressively.
This made me almost snort/laugh. You know exactly why. I live in a fairly conservative state, with a large population of people who are very religious. Unfortunately, we are one of the worst in the country when it comes to aggressive driving, so it is ironic that Psychology today listed this as an aspect of people who have integrity. I suppose that how you drive says a lot about you. Perhaps when we all go in for our annual meeting with our religious leader, and he asks us if we are honest in our dealings with our fellow man- the follow up question should be, “and how is your driving record?” I personally love to speed. My children tell me quite often, “Mom, if you were any closer to the car in front of you, you could back seat drive.” I once had to be to school at 6 in the morning for a rehearsal with my students. Upon entering the room, I heard one young lady say that she had someone riding her “butt” the whole way there. I piped up proudly, “That was me!” I would like to add though, in case any of you are thinking that I am a terrible person; I USE my blinkers! Let’s all remember that driving in a cooperative manner that is mindful of your fellow commuters is actually a sign of integrity. Let’s all try to practice it more when we’re behind the wheel (I am Katie Stevens, and I approve of this message).
5. People in positions of power apologizing for keeping their captive audience waiting.
I have a great doctor. He is a busy guy, and just like most medical offices, it usually takes longer than you think necessary to be seen. The thing that made him come to my mind when I saw number five, was that he is always quick to say that he is sorry for keeping me waiting. I appreciate that he recognizes my time is worth something too! All too often when a person feels like they are more important than other people, they don’t make a conscious effort to apologize to others. Hey! That goes back to number one! Parents are in a position of power, and as parents we have peers and members of society who are above us. If we were all part of the food chain, it would be easy to see that there is always a bigger fish in the ocean.
When was the last time that a physician came into the examination room and acknowledged how long you’d been made to wait? I’ve never heard a doctor say, “I’m sorry for keeping you waiting,” or, “Thanks for waiting; I’m sure you’re probably busy.” In situations where there is a major power imbalance, make no mistake: The one with power who apologizes to the one with less power is showing bona fide integrity.
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6. Anyone giving another person the benefit of the doubt when the circumstances are unclear.
Modern life is more taxing and fast-paced than ever, and we suffer from stress on an ongoing basis. When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to get defensive and blame others. But if each of us could learn to give people the benefit of the doubt across the board—whether it’s in an argument, about a job not completed, or in response to feedback that suggests that someone’s spoken badly about you—we would have less stress in our daily lives. One of the noblest behaviors you can engage in is to give someone the benefit of the doubt before rushing to judgment or negatively filling in the blanks yourself.
As a society, we hardly volunteer enough. Yet a handful of men and women make volunteering a built-in part of their weekly life, whether at a church, a food pantry, animal shelter, or other non-profit operation. It shows a certain level of integrity to volunteer for a one-day stint here or there, but the steadier integrity is shown by those who commit to ongoing volunteer positions that require a real sacrifice of time. Cheers to all the parents who coach their children’s teams, but let’s not forget those volunteers who provide a service to their larger community or to underprivileged strangers. I watch in amazement when relief groups come from all over the world after a hurricane, tsunami, flood, or other disaster. When I was seven years old, my hometown was caught in the path of a flood. I grew up in southeastern Idaho, and just miles from the Teton dam. On June 5, we were in Utah at a wedding when news came across the radio that the Teton dam had burst. We raced for home, unsure of whether or not we could get there, and if there would be a home left to get to. It was chaos! Army trucks rumbled by, and the National Guard was called out. Homes from Tetonia, St. Anthony and Rexburg were buried in mud and stinking water. It fanned out for miles along the Snake River Plain, killing eleven people, gobbling up livestock and cattle, and decimating cars and homes. Immediately the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sprang into action, with calling trees and home teachers being led by Bishops preparing people to enter the danger zone. Others were called upon to build up the banks of the Snake River in Idaho Falls, sandbagging for miles to ward off the oncoming waters. It was the worst man-made disaster in Idaho history. As one who benefitted from the efforts of all the volunteers, I can only say thank you for your service!
Speaking of sports, my family and I are avid golfers. We have been participating for generations, as it is one of the few sports that you can continue to play as you age. My grandpa played, and my parents took up the game in college. They introduced us at eight years of age. I think they figured if you are old enough to be considered “accountable” for your sins, you should start playing golf! I include this here, because golf is a game full of integrity. If having integrity, and a moral character is defined by what you do when no-one is looking, then golf is a great life lesson! (And I don’t mean because no one watches the game!) Golf is the only professional sport where participants call penalties on themselves! As a child we were carefully taught by our parents, neighbors, coaches, and by those we came in contact with out on the course that there is nothing more important than being accountable for everything we did. Each stroke, whiff, out-of-bounds, and ball movement was counted. The penalty for ignoring or “forgetting” was disqualifications. Talk about learning a life lesson!
Integrity is a moral stance. I listened today as a young man in my class proudly told the class about his grandma. He announced that his grandma told him, “Break as many laws as you want, just don’t get caught!” He seemed quite pleased at how cool she was. I piped up, “That has got to be the worst advice ever!” The root of integrity is found in “The Golden Rule.” We should do unto others, as we would have done to us!”
In the story of the Good Samaritan, a parable unfolds. A Jewish man is found lying along the side of a road. He has been beaten, robbed, and left for dead. The first to come upon this man was a fellow Jew, but he was too busy to stop. The next man to come across the poor fellow was a Priest. Surely a Priest would stop to help someone in need; but no- he did not have the time. Finally, a Samaritan stopped. The Samaritan’s and the Jews were not friends. They did not like each other. This man however, stopped and saw to the wounded man’s needs. He also took him to an inn, and paid for him to stay there. Finally, he told the innkeeper he would be back through in a week, and whatever further payment was needed, he would pay. I love this story. It tells me so much about integrity! The first two men showed moral turpitude akin to an enemy. The man who was actually looked down upon by others was the one to live the “Golden Rule” as previously mentioned. The moral of the parable was to realize that all men are our neighbors, but I think it also stands true for showing integrity to all. There is no one that is not deserving of being shown a better way.
Having a foundational value like integrity in your life, you can be sure that the way you are viewed by your peers, and the value that is placed on your word will increase dramatically.
As a child, my mom was a stickler for this. I remember going to a store, and learning a quick lesson about what happens to those who don’t have integrity. My little brother decided he wanted a piece of gum. It was in a bin, like loose penny candy used to be. As we walked by, he put a piece in his pocket and it wasn’t discovered until we got home. My mom put him back in the car, and drove back into town for that one cent Dubble Bubble. She went immediately to the store manager, and told him that my brother had something he wanted to tell him. With huge crocodile tears, my little brother confessed to taking the piece of gum. He told the manager how sorry he was, and that it would never happen again. I think mom told him that he might have to spend a night in the county lock-up, but the lesson was learned. Not one of the Stanger children ever tried to klep anything again.
There is one organization that comes to my mind when I think about what we teach our youth. As a sister to two boys, I got to see first hand the valuable life lessons that they learned while involved in the Boy Scouts of America. From the time a boy turns twelve years old they are required to learn (and hopefully live) the Scout Oath. This oath states:
On my honor I will do my best,
To do my duty to God and my country
And to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
Mentally awake, and morally straight.
What a wonderful oath that these young men and women make! Is it any wonder that earning the office of an Eagle Scout is so commendable and holds so much esteem? So many of our leaders today can look to their youth and see the influence of the Boy Scouts of America. If you followed a law which encouraged you to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent- (whew, that is a LOT of good qualities) I think it would be safe to say that we would all be better people.
Author: Katie Stevens
Katie is the busy mother of four children, and both a teacher and a writer. She loves working behind the scenes at a Good Cause, and her passions include philanthropy and mentoring. She is a singer by birth and a choral director by choice. In her spare time she sleeps, but her spare time IS between 11 pm and 5 am!