Virtues: Integrity

Today I want to talk about honesty’s bed partner: Integrity.

Where honesty deals with the spoken word, integrity deals with actions.  This sums it up well:

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Integrity implies that you adhere to a strict moral code; that you have scruples, and that you don’t veer off that path. Often though, we are faced with situations that may make us want to compromise our integrity, because the prospect is fun or easy. It’s also often short-lived. And when one looks back, not worth it at all – because it leaves a dead spot in your being.  Yes, that’s experience talking.

 

 

 

 

 

All jobs require integrity, but professions even more so – medical & judicial particularly, but even there, sometimes people buckle, whether it is the leaking of confidential information, or accepting a bribe to look the other way.

Again though, what is right and wrong, because as with honesty, sometimes things do get a bit grey.  We’ve all been taught that it’s not right to steal, but we’ve also been taught that it is the right thing to provide for your family. So, if an unemployed man gets caught stealing (whether food or money) to provide for his hungry children, is he doing wrong? The stickler-for-the-rules in me is screaming YES! But the more open-minded side of me is empathetically saying, No. Wouldn’t it be more wrong if he tossed everything in the fuck-it-bucket and abandoned them? The same with the occupations I mentioned earlier – there are reported cases in South Africa of intimidation and death threats to high profile professionals. Honestly, if I was in their shoes, and my life (or that of my family) was in grave danger, I might slip and roll right off the moral high ground.

Sure, there are moral lines that I wouldn’t physically cross, and some that I always said I wouldn’t, but have as youthful indiscretions.  Some I even did two- or three times, because apparently burning your fingers once isn’t enough. Again, as I said yesterday, with age comes wisdom.

Now that I’m older, as far as is humanly possible, I strive to be trustworthy, backing my words up with action, although I know Elizabeth is shaking her head reading this: I told her I’d make her swirled mocha chocolate mousse, and I still haven’t done it – it’s been over a decade already! But I will do it – if I ever find the recipe again.

Earlier today I had a customer pop in at my office. He’s a dear old man; soft-spoken, with kind eyes and old school chivalrous. He was telling me that he and his wife will be making chutney this weekend and enquired about my plans for the weekend. I told him that I try to spend some time every weekend with my parents, because it is the honourable thing to do.  He even thanked me for it. It was an odd thing for me to hear, because seeing my parents at least for a while every weekend, is second nature to me, and if for some reason I know I won’t see them on the weekend, I make a point of spending a night with them during the week. Words, actions.

We’re all human; we’re all different and I believe in my heart that the greater percentile of us is just trying to do good and live lives that don’t cause harm.

As with the other virtues I’ve already written about, I fail with this too – although not as much as I did when I was younger.  I’m a lot more open-minded and comprehend that things are not as black-and-white-cut-and-dry-cast-in-stone as all the handbooks would have us believe.

Everyday is a new beginning, a chance to try again. Tomorrow I will strive not to commit murder in my mind (because I’ve failed hopelessly at it today…)

Virtues: Honesty

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what my writing approach to the virtue of honesty, which will be followed by its significant other, integrity, would be. It’s been tough, because it isn’t as cut and dry as other virtues like kindness – you’re either kind or you’re not; patience – you’re either have buckets full of it, or the little you do have wears thin very quickly; creativity – you either have some kind of arty-farty side, or you don’t.  Honesty though, is quite a grey area I’ve come to find as I’ve been chatting to various people in preparation for this piece.

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Honesty implies being truthful with your spoken communication, but in the words of one of my favourite musicians, Billy Joel, Honesty is such a lonely word // Everyone is so untrue which is a fair generalization.

Face it – we all lie at some stage of our lives, whether it is telling the- proverbial little white lie*, an outright blatant one#, or omitting the truth+. Most times these dishonesties are justified by good intentions – the examples below are ones I’ve personally heard.

*My ex-wife wanted me to tell our four-year old daughter we were going to the park, because she didn’t want to get into the car to go to church.

#Of course those pants don’t make your arse look fat!

+I spent the day baking (the bit that was omitted was space cakes)

Nikita, the colleague I travel to work with, gave me an entirely different angle as to why people aren’t entirely honest – fear.  She used a simple illustration of having spinach stuck in her teeth and me not telling her, for fear that she would be upset with me for the potential embarrassment she’d initially have, but that she’d rather I told her, than have her walk around the office for hours without knowing and everyone having a right old snigger behind her back.

The thing with any forms of untruths is that they may open the door to the creation of trust issues and let’s not try and baffle each other with bullshit here – if trust is broken, it is seldom ever one hundred percent restored.

This is the reason many relationships fail, because the words are empty. Neil Diamond summed it up well when he recorded Love on the Rocks in 1980. Love on the Rocks // ain’t no big surprise // pour me a drink // and I’ll tell you some lies…

The question though is if you really know the person you’re communicating with, and they’re not being entirely honest with you – is it not because they’re trying to protect you? Or because they know you well enough to know that you can’t handle the whole truth (at least not at that moment in time)? Simply answered (and this is hard for me to admit) – yes. However, with that said, there are only a handful of people I know would opt to go this route because they’re thinking more of me, than they are of themselves – and they are the people that are not only honest in my book, but the ones that have integrity too, because they will back up their words with their actions.

I’ll be brutally candid here – I’ve failed at being honest in the past, but with age has come wisdom and I know that my words have power, so I try to be as truthful as I can, with whomever I come into contact, and I will by that same yardstick, maintain my integrity back backing up my words with actions.

I love this definition of honesty – because it is not as black & white as many of the others I’ve found during my research and it is fundamentally true.

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