Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lack of Integrity

Where have you gone, integrity?

Lack of integrity is enveloping our world. From individuals and groups, to communities and corporations, there is a glaring absence of commitment to integrity – to adhering to values, to living without discord and with wholeness and completeness. Integrity is to be trustworthy, to uphold responsibility and commitment, to be your word on actions you have agreed to and, in so doing, to build trusting relationships and honor.

It seems that “what’s in it for me” and “I watch out for myself” are the catch phrases of far too many people. The sense of responsibility and connectedness to others, to honor and service, is not just leaking out of our collective conscience, it’s a tidal wave.

What is it about integrity that makes it so elusive? Is it that it takes too much courage or too much time to do what is right? As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wisely said “It takes less time to do a thing right, than it does to explain why you did it wrong.” Is it too overwhelming to resist the swell, to stand your ground and to act on what’s right? Integrity is not simply refusing or walking away, it’s about standing up for what you believe in and taking action. You do not simply step around the litter that the person walking in front of you dropped, you pick it up. And you confront it. You do the right thing and you heal the wrong. There are plenty of ways to justify why we do not act on our integrity. We’re too busy. It’s not our responsibility. It’s easier to go with the flow. We can even complain about or find fault with the person, group, or company whose integrity we are violating. Justifications and blame are simple. But transgressing our personal integrity and the integrity of our community will gnaw at our core. It will stew and steep. We can set it aside, but it will come back. When we have crossed the lines of integrity, when we have chosen a path that not righteous, we know it in our hearts.

Is a lack of integrity what we want to teach our children? Kids will certainly learn peer pressure at school. But they learn integrity at home. Do you tell your children that it’s okay to look the other way when someone is being bullied? That they should stand with their group rather than stand up for what is right? Living with integrity may not be easy, but it’s what matters. Whistle blowers are few and far between. But they are the true heroes. Individual and corporate greed are hard to overcome. Finding businesses, organizations, and groups operating with integrity is not as easy as we’d like to believe, but they’re out there. We make them – we ARE them. When we let our integrity slip, we are not only hurting ourselves. Living with integrity builds bonds and trust. It enables clear and honest communication and opens up the possibility for excellence and success.

How do we live with integrity? By tuning into what feels good and right – for ourselves, for our families, for our communities. Listening to our inner guides, walking our talks, and living our word build the foundation for a life of integrity. We may not be able to stop others from acting without ethics and integrity, but we have a responsibility to ourselves and our children to be sure that we don’t follow their route. Integrity begins with us. As Ann Patterson wisely wrote “Only when there is personal integrity within many individuals in a society of any size can there be positive and helpful relationships among individuals and groups of people and government entities.” Following leaders without integrity is a surefire path away from wellness and happiness in the long term.

And, of course, there’s always karma!

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