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:
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…)