Last fall, I was talking to a group of business owners about the presidential debates and the integrity of the candidates. One of the group, seeming confused, asked: Bruce, how do you stay ‘within the cones’ in today’s world? In other words, how do I stay on the path to integrity, trying to be consistent in all my actions, ethical in my treatment of others, and holding myself to a higher standard than so many around me?
After pausing to think, I replied: I study integrity; I set goals to become more integrious. I read about people known for their integrity, learning from them, and modeling my behavior after them. I discuss what it means with those I trust and respect. I ponder it often, I ask myself deeper questions. I define it for me, then, I practice it by putting it into my daily routine. I evaluate my performance and work to correct my mistakes.
Webster defines Integrity as 1. The quality of being honest; having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. 2. The state of being whole and undivided. Here’s my definition: Do what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it, and hold yourself to a higher standard regardless of what others are doing. Mine may not be the classic definition, but it tells me exactly what I’m supposed to do if I wish to be a man of integrity. When confronted with a difficult situation I ask: How would George Washington act? What would my mother expect of her son?
Integrity is learned. It’s taught: how to be and how not to be. Nothing fakes out a faker more than simple integrity. You work to stay on the high road, doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons. Integrity is a powerful force in the world…honesty, moral uprightness; whole and undivided. It begins with each of us striving to reach that standard. It then spreads and takes hold of others as we demonstrate its meaning.
My mother taught me to do the right thing and she expected me to do it. She always showed me how. She was glowingly proud of me when I did right. The harder it was for me to do, the prouder she was when I did it. My mother died over 35 years ago. I continue to strive to make her glow with pride in her little boy. I do so by working hard to live a life of integrity.