I was recently in a moral situation. One of my close colleagues, Marsha (not her real name), posted on Facebook how she was disappointed how someone had talked about her behind her back. She says now that she is aware, she will be more careful. It’s kind of like Marsha finally understood that colleague’s “true colors.” While I haven’t been in the habit of talking about her behind her back, I shared something recently with another co-worker that did not put her in the best light.
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey
So, I called her. Naturally, I was feeling a bit guilty, and she was friendly to me. Everything seemed fine, but I couldn’t help wondering if the social media post was about me. Although the post probably wasn’t, I decided from now that it’s better to keep my mouth shut. Keep my opinions about other people’s behavior to myself unless keeping silent would result in an innocent person getting hurt.
Reflecting on Your Own Behavior
In that situation, I reflected later to myself, I would have been hurt, as Marsha probably did if what was said got back to me. As the Golden Rule says, do unto others as you would have done unto you. I could have acted with more integrity by letting the past stay in the past.
To explain why integrity is essential to all of us, it helps to start with a working definition of integrity. According to one writer on Psychology Today, the meaning of integrity will be hard for most people to define, but it’s an important quality to have in business, social situations, and personal relationships.
“Put another way, the root of integrity is about doing the right thing even when it’s not acknowledged by others, or convenient for you.”
So, if you don’t know that anyone is watching or might acknowledge your behavior — either good or bad, would you still act with integrity? Or would you do whatever is in your own best interest?
This is the type of moral dilemma that people struggle with every day. The decisions they make in each situation may never come to light, but, deep down inside themselves, they will know if they made a choice consistent with their own morals or beliefs. If their choice were ever revealed to their family and friends, they are the only ones that would need to be able to live with that decision.
However, knowing how they acted could change how their own loved ones now see them. Before you make a decision in a moral situation, believe it or not, you can consider whether someone would find out about it, and that could influence your decision.
Learning About the Different Kinds of People
There are different kinds of people you can meet in your business and personal life. There will be people who succeed, people who don’t succeed, or who sometimes succeed (but it may be temporary). According to Brian Tracy, these people who do succeed are often built of high moral character.
They stand out for their exemplary actions regardless of the context they are in, people look up to them, feel inspired by them, and want to be near them and replicate their behavior. Is that the person you want to be — a model? If you do, then you need to practice integrity every day.
You Don’t Have to Compromise Your Integrity
If you’re like me, each day when you wake up, you go to work or other activities, and you interact with other people. They will react to your behavior in different social contexts, and you will adjust your behavior accordingly.
At the end of the day, when you are lying in bed, you take a few minutes to reflect on your day. I use this time to determine how it went. Did I make the best choices? Was there something I could have done better? Typically, if I made a choice I was happy with, then I could sleep well. If I made a choice that wasn’t right, or worse, was contrary to my beliefs, then I would have trouble sleeping that night.
Maybe no one would ever know, but I would know. I like to be able to live with my decisions and forgive myself when I do something wrong. I want to seek forgiveness from others when I have wronged them. I consider myself to be a person with integrity.
Integrity is Doing The Right Thing When It’s The Right Thing You Should Do
If you own a business, have your own children or teach children, or have employees to supervise daily, then you are keenly aware of your actions and why integrity is essential. Every decision you make has an impact on others.
While your words or decisions may benefit one employee, colleague, or child, it may also hurt or upset others. You must be content with making decisions. The alternative is to be paralyzed by self-doubt, and it would be difficult to act in any position of authority.
All You Can Do is Your Best
In every situation with a moral component, you have 3 choices:
- Do nothing.
- Do something and minimize the negative effects on others.
- Do something and maximize the positive impact on others.
Today, we’re living in a polarized society. Recent media coverage that debates on the integrity of President Trump over his behavior in regards to four Congresswomen of color is a good example. There are people with every point of view on how it would be correct to talk about citizens of foreign origin, even when they have become citizens of this country.
Your own beliefs on immigration may be influenced by how you and your family were treated with respect to immigration. In the end, you have integrity if you only act on an issue consistent with your beliefs. It’s also possible to change your beliefs if life gives you experiences that challenge them.