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Personal Accountability

What Is the Meaning of Integrity?

by Scot Chadwick

What is integrity? Although we often hear this word used in personal and professional contexts, its meaning can be tricky to sum up. So here is a practical definition and some helpful examples of integrity in action.

What Is Integrity?

Integrity can be defined as aligning your conduct with what you know to be excellent. A person of integrity displays a principled dedication to values and beliefs. They always seek to reflect ethical standards and do the right thing regardless of the circumstances.

Attributes of Integrity

The convictions of a person of integrity determine what they will say and do at any given time. They intentionally direct their conduct according to their understanding of what is right and wrong. Authenticity marks the heart of integrity. Their internal character remains consistent regardless of external conditions.

Integrity includes the quality of being honest, but honesty does not always demonstrate integrity. The difference is the inner commitment to being trustworthy and communicating the truth without deception. An integrated person lives without duplicity and hypocrisy.

A person of integrity does not claim to be perfect. Instead, they are quick to acknowledge their own mistakes and faults. Their sincerity comes from a pure motivation to do what is right even when it might be inconvenient. Times of crisis particularly test a person’s integrity. What would it take for you to compromise your resolve to do what you believe is right?

Why Is Integrity Important?

Acting with integrity gives you peace of mind in knowing you did the right thing regardless of the outcome.

Living a life of integrity is important for several reasons. Your conduct reflects your character and builds your reputation. Integrity inhibits moral failure due to compromise or cheating. It shows that you have nothing to hide that, if revealed, would bring shame or reproach upon you. Under scrutiny, your life would be declared innocent.

By committing to live based on excellent principles, you provide an example for others to follow. You also have a basis for open communication with others because they trust you. Your relationships can prosper based on honesty and forthrightness.

You can make decisions much more easily because you have already determined to do what is excellent and therefore eliminated all the other alternatives. Acting with integrity gives you peace of mind in knowing you did the right thing regardless of the outcome.

Examples of Integrity

What does integrity look like? Consider these examples:

  • Janet confesses to Betty that she wronged her and seeks to reconcile the relationship.
  • Even though circumstances changed, Bill keeps his promise to his daughter.
  • As CEO, Sue encourages her team to ask her anything about the business.
  • Gerald accepts responsibility for his decision without making excuses or blaming others.
  • Frances gives a fair day’s labor for a fair day’s wage.
  • Arnold shares with his wife his passwords to all his devices as well as his website and social media accounts.
  • After calmly deliberating his options, Hal makes his decision about changing careers.
  • Nancy is quick to praise and thank others for their good work but refuses to brag about her accomplishments.
  • Mack has nothing to prove and refuses to be goaded into showing off for others.
  • Jenny keeps appropriate matters confidential and is trustworthy with sensitive information.
  • Shawn remains honest about her work and does not exaggerate the truth for personal gain.
  • To help maintain his goal, Ted shares relevant details about his progress with his accountability partner.

What Is the Opposite of Integrity?

A good antonym for integrity is hypocrisy. A person is hypocritical when they pretend to be something they are not, believe something they do not believe, or value something they do not value. Their words and actions do not align with their true values and beliefs. They are playing the part of someone they are not.

Hypocrisy hurts since it originates from a lie.

In normal circumstances such duplicity is deceptive. It presents an inconsistent and insincere picture of who that person honestly is. Why would someone do this? Perhaps they want to make others think better of them than they ought to think. Maybe they want to cover the truth from others so they can avoid embarrassment or shame.

Whatever the reason, hypocrisy hurts since it originates from a lie. If you recognize that you are hypocritical about something, stop and ask yourself what it is that you want to accomplish in that situation. Are your desires in line with what you value and believe to be good and right? Maybe you need to grow in your understanding and commitment to good values and true beliefs. Or perhaps it is your outward conduct that needs to change.

Choose to live in integrity by clarifying your values and beliefs. Evaluate your words and actions to see what needs to change so you can more consistently express those inner commitments.

Choose Wisely

So what is integrity? It means aligning your conduct with what you know to be excellent. Because you are responsible for your conduct, you are also responsible for your integrity. Choose your words and actions to be consistent with your values and beliefs.

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