Integrity – it’s an interesting word, isn’t it? The word integrity seems to be one of those highly ambiguous words that can mean different things for different people, like ‘responsibility,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘power.’
Whilst we all seem to relate to the word integrity somewhat differently, there’s no denying that in our culture this word has strong moral and ethical overtones. For most of us, if someone has integrity, this means that they are a ‘good person,’ and if they don’t, well, then the opposite is true. If someone has integrity they do the ‘right’ thing, and if they don’t, they do the ‘wrong’ thing, whatever that means to us. However, given that objectively there is no such thing as a good or bad person, or the right or wrong thing, it may be worth looking at a more reliable way to define this very important word.
But firstly, just why is integrity so important? Before 2017, truth be told I only had a very loose, moral concept of this word and what it meant. Yet after I started taking courses with Landmark, an organisation offering personal development courses in many areas of life, my fundamental understanding of integrity changed, and I began to see just how much it influences our lives on a daily basis. From the point of view of Landmark, ‘without integrity, nothing works.’
From this new way of looking at integrity, I realised that having integrity isn’t about being good or bad, right or wrong. Fundamentally, it’s about doing what you said you would do (in other words, keeping your promises), and living true to your own principles and values as a human being. When we don’t honour these, our lives are not fulfilling and we don’t relate to ourselves with any sense of power.
Look around you, at yourself, at others; read the news. Do we live in a world where people always do what they say they will? Do we live in a world where people honour their highest principles and values as people, and don’t let themselves get dragged down by things such as jealousy, greed and hatred? Do we live in a world that works? Perhaps it works for some people, but certainly not for everyone.
This is why integrity matters. It’s not about morality or being a ‘good’ person, showing how righteous you are compared to everyone else. Integrity is simply about honouring yourself as who you really are, and what you give your word to. You might not think that it matters, for example, if you turn up a few minutes late to work every day. Or you might think it’s normal to make promises to yourself or others and not keep them (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?) In such cases you aren’t honouring your word, and there’s probably also an impact on other people that we aren’t present to when we do this.
Yet integrity goes much deeper than this. Politicians are a great example – lots of hot air and promises, but how much actually gets done? They give their word to things all the time, yet seem to have a weak relationship to fulfilling on it. This is a big part of why the world doesn’t work, and why relationships break down. You give your word to yourself that you’ll start going to the gym, or cut out alcohol, yet several weeks later you’ve cancelled your membership and are back on the booze. Or you’re always late when you go and meet your friends, and then you wonder why they start to talk with you less often. Again, this isn’t about blame or there being something wrong – just that keeping our promises is a fundamental aspect of integrity that will have us known as someone who is powerful, reliable and trustworthy – someone people will really want to have as a friend or associate.
Another really important aspect of integrity is staying true to your own principles and values – in other words, what truly matters to you as a human being. For example, if you’re someone who values honesty, lying would constitute a lack of integrity for you. If you value compassion, then being judgmental and nasty to someone could also be seen as a lack of integrity. This isn’t to say that it’s bad or wrong, just that it’s out of alignment with what matters to you. It’s actually a very good idea to make a list of what personally matters to you in terms of character traits, so you have a reference as to what standards to hold yourself to. Doing this is important as it helps you to stay true to yourself and be authentic as often as possible.
Having integrity means having a strong connection to yourself and knowing yourself really well. Through this connection, you can develop a stronger sense of your own power and more effectively stand up for what’s important to you on a personal level. The stronger your integrity, the more you won’t be swayed by others’ thoughts, wishes and actions, and will be true to yourself.
Start by assessing your own principles and values. Write them down on a piece of paper, and then check to what extent you yourself honour those principles and values. If you see that you’re not honouring something you say is important to you, ask yourself what you’re choosing to honour instead and what that costs you. Have you, for example, chosen to honour money over your principles? Start to build up a picture of to what extent you are in integrity with yourself.
Another powerful exercise is to look at what you’ve given your word to, and where you have and haven’t kept to this. Did you tell someone you’d do something and haven’t done it? Are you repeatedly late? Have you broken a promise to yourself? Giving your word to things and then not doing them causes your word to lose power, and it’s likely you will then relate to yourself as less powerful than you actually are. Completing all broken promises and renewing your commitments is a surefire way to bring a renewed sense of freedom and power into your life.
If you’d like to know more about integrity or have any questions about our work, please send us an email! And remember to subscribe for our midweek email.