Hold fast to your ethics and principles and do not for a minute consider compromising what you believe to be right. — I Ching

Of all of the tenets, I think integrity acts as the foundation for all of the others. It is complex, far reaching and definitely one that I must work on each and every day. Without integrity, the other tenets seem rhetorical.

Courtesy without integrity is as hollow as the voice of a computer saying, “Please hold, your call is very important to us.” Or hearing over the speaker at a department store, “Thank you for shopping with us. We invite you to join us again.” The words sound courteous — but the meaning is void.

Self-control without integrity is merely denial. Perseverance without integrity is but endurance, a muscle trained to react to the same conditions. It can also be stubbornness and pride. Indomitable spirit without integrity becomes selfishness. Helping for one’s own gain. Helping for the attention, the glamour and recognition rather than to sincerely help another for the true good of it. The test? Would it have been done if no one were watching or no one was told about it?

This is not to say that the other tenets are not important. They are very important. But to me, integrity seems to be the root system for the tree that is our tenets. They are living, shifting and changing ideals for which we strive.

So what is integrity? Often people talk about a lack of integrity, but ask someone what it is, and there are a hundred answers, all of which are accurate. Integrity is a steadfast adherence to a strict moral and ethical code. It is a state of being unimpaired or sound. It is a quality of being whole, complete. Heavy stuff for such a small word.

It all boils down to something that Bernie Sanders said to a group of high school students who were attending a leadership conference when he was still Mayor of Burlington, VT. “Look into your heart and ask yourself: what is right, what is wrong, and do I, as a human being, have the strength to follow it?” I first heard those words almost 13 years ago. They are still as loud and as strong as they were the day he spoke them. Like an internal moral compass, this question seems to lead to the heart of integrity: is this right for me? For the community? And more than just is this right or wrong, it is a call to action as well.

Many do not believe Anita Hill or her accusations of Clarence Thomas. But just listen to her thoughts on what she did and why : “I did what my conscience told me to, and you can’t fail when you do that.” To this day she is viewed with contempt. It took bravery and strength to stand up before an entire nation and refuse to compromise herself and to fight for what she believed in. Who are we to judge her for that?

These strengths of character, when merged with ethics and actions merge to for a greater whole.

Random thoughts on Integrity

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation for integrity. — Keshevan Nair

Integrity implies implicit obedience to the dictates of conscience. In other words, a heart and life habitually controlled by a sense of duty. — W. S. Tyler

Integrity does not always require following the rules. Sometimes integrity requires breaking the rules. But it also requires being open and public about both the fact of one’s dissent and the reasons for it. — Stephen Carter

Integrity is the refusal to compromise your talents, your inner sense of self and your undergirding values and attributes regardless of the score, the outcome or different levels of ability between you and your opponent. — Chuang Liang Al Huang

Doing the right thing rather than the wrong is neither habit nor instinct. It is will.
— Stephen Carter

I have found that great people have in common an immense belief in themselves and in their mission. They also have great determination as well as ability to work hard. At the crucial moment of decision, they draw on their accumulated wisdom.  Above all, they have integrity. — Yousuf Karsh

When at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment of each one of us — recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state — our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, we will be measured by the answers to four questions:
Were we truly men of courage?
Were we truly men of judgment?
Were we truly men of integrity?
Were we truly men of dedication?
— John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Indeed, one reason to focus on integrity as perhaps the first among the virtues for good character is that it is in some sense prior to everything else : the rest of what we think matters very little if we lack the essential integrity, the courage of our convictions, the willingness to act and speak on behalf of what we know to be right. In an era when the American people are crying out for open discussion of morality — of right and wrong — the ideal of integrity seems a good place to begin. No matter what our politics, no matter what causes we may support, would anybody really want to be led or assisted by people who lack integrity? People whose words we could not trust, whose motives we didn’t respect, who might try at any moment to toss aside everything we thought we had in common and march off in another direction? — Stephen Carter

Sin is a queer thing. It isn’t the breaking of divine commandments.
It is the breaking of one’s own integrity. — DH Lawrence

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right, nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other. — Martin Luther

Integrity is one of several paths, it distinguishes itself from the others because it is the right path, and the only one upon which you will never get lost. — M. H. McKee

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