"Integrity" is a word I hear thrown around a lot these days, especially across the political aisle, typically accusing others of not having any. That's the thing with Integrity -- it doesn't so much matter what others say about yours because no one can really make that judgement call about you. The power of integrity is whether you feel you are living with it or not because you're the only one who can change your behavior.
I've witnessed married men cheat on their wives, but insist they live with the upmost integrity.
I've witnessed absolutely broke young women steal so they can feed their babies, and again, they feel they are living with integrity.
Honestly, we can't say either way because, we can't know all of the details.
So much of our personal lives involve struggles only we can begin to address. Once those struggles are shared with someone else, the recipient can all too easily dismiss them. But you can't... not your own struggles. Those struggles have power. At least for you they do.
To me, integrity is a series of self-inquiries. Questions like: what do I want to accomplish in life and why? How do my actions impact others? What is the best course of action in this situation for all involved.? It's much less about dogma, or judgement, or right vs. wrong.
This is a difficult proposition for some.
We live in a very dualistic world. This makes perfect sense because all too often we live in our minds, and of course our minds are literally hemispheric ... divided in the middle. We are surrounded by duality: Right v. Wrong; Good v. Bad, Yes v. No, Republican v. Democrat, White v. Black, Haves v. Have nots, etc. This tendency can cause us to miss important connections with others entirely because we were too stuck in our minds and in the duality.
My daughter (5 years old) does this all the time. For example, she is terrified to ask others for help, crippled by the fears of she imagines will happen next.
Like most of us, my child is happy to demonstrate a skill she's been cultivating -- to "show off" -- skipping rungs on the monkey bars, for example. She's always willing to dance for others, as she is confident in her abilities; but to ask for help? Ut uh. Even if it's for crayons at a restaurant, or where the bathroom is at a friend's house, or to order dessert from the restaurant counter on her own.
This is her typical argument:
"I can't ask them! They won't be able to hear me." or "I can't do that, they'll make fun of me." or "I can't do that, they won't want to help me?" All too often, her fears, or her anticipation of what will happen next directs her momentaty behavior, often times in a way that she ends up without help. She asks me to do it, or her father, because she is terrified of rejection or of being made to feel ashamed. That fear of shame is powerful... for everyone.
I've witnessed this fear of shame prevent adults from acting with integrity in business. Often times, business owners need to be strategic to select an appropriate course of action, and "business plan"; yet the factors one considers can lead away from integrity. All too often we are focused on the bottomline, and not enough on the impact our actions have on others.
To hear how one woman relied on her integrity in business when all of her peers made the contrary decision, check out this recent discussion with Karen Rudolph, former owner of Rudolph and Sletten, Inc. On the eve of this Independence Day, this is food for thought on how we can act in business.