How often do we encounter professionals who say they are going to do something and actually do it? There are many instances where promises are made and not followed through. People who possess “integrity” are honest; they don’t exaggerate, ignore, or omit. Those with integrity follow through on what is said, commitments made, and promises given. Merriam-Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines integrity as: 1) firm adherence to a code of moral or artistic values, 2) an unimpaired condition, and 3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided.
Most of us believe that we have integrity. People are not “born” with this trait. Usually, this trait is proven when tested because to live with integrity takes self-confidence, courage, and strength. Life presents challenges to test our integrity, and we must be prepared to handle situations according to our values.
How one behaves is a reflection on personal beliefs. And, values are personal beliefs that influence our behavior. Howard Kirschenbaum, author of Advanced Values Clarification, details the five steps to help clarify values. The five-part process includes thinking, feeling, communicating, choosing, and acting on life choices.
Professionals are held accountable for their behavior and what they say they will do; in other words: commitments. For example, when managers within an organization promise subordinates raises, advancement opportunities, or promotions and do not follow through, then loss of respect and trustworthiness follows. In fact, the person who was promised a raise from the manager and did not get the raise will, most likely, tell many people within the organization. The reputation of the manager is now compromised. To maintain character, integrity, and live according to values begin by keeping commitments made.
What is the recourse if a promise cannot be kept? A person with integrity will own up to the promise and continue to strive to keep the agreement. This is a better approach then to ignore the initial communication. People with integrity follow through on commitments or acknowledge the commitment cannot occur.
Sally Kempton, in her 2014 article on Walk your Talk: Tap Your Inner Truth to Live Every Day with Integrity provides guidelines for deciding whether an action is met with honesty and truthfulness. The guidelines are written in the form of questions.
- What do the great wisdom teachers say? This can apply to historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan because what they have said inspired many people by their courage and ability to communicate effectively.
- What would a good person do? Who are your role models to emulate? What would that person do? Most people model their behavior to resemble people admired. This list could include religious leaders, sports figures, teachers, etc.
- What would give me the most joy in this situation? Most people know when they do the right thing. Just because you can do something does not mean it is the proper thing to do. Or, just because you want to do something does not mean you should do it. How would you like to be treated if roles were reversed?
- How will this serve my highest desires and motivations? Evaluating and living by one’s values helps when confused about solving a problem or issue. Does what I am about to do align with my values? Looking back on the situation, will I be proud of my contribution?
- What will align me with my true Self? Having the confidence to live by one’s values takes courage. Loss of self-respect can result when you do or say things that conflict with what you believe.
Possessing integrity is living by the values one believes and the consideration for the feelings and well-being of other people.