Why is integrity important? I think it’s because we’re seeing less of it than we used to. When you get married you take a vow to love, honor, and obey your spouse. How many people actually live by those words today? When you make a business agreement with someone you discuss the details and look them in the eye and shake hands and the agreement is made. Would any of us feel comfortable living by that handshake if the agreement involved thousands of dollars?
A simple definition of integrity is steadfast adherence to a moral or ethical code. Steadfast, consistent, all the time, means that you adhere to a moral or ethical code. There are no conditions, its steadfast, consistent, all of the time. I don’t know where it became acceptable to have conditional integrity. But that seems to be what we find today. If I tell you that the sky is blue, then next week when we discuss it I should continue to tell you the sky is blue. Even if in the week that’s passed since I told you the sky is blue, a close business associate of mine has decided that the sky is really green, I should continue to say the sky is blue, because I know the sky to be blue.
If I thought the sky was blue, but my new personal business associate has showed me where I was wrong and that the sky really isn’t blue but it’s green, admitting that I was wrong earlier, when I said the sky was blue, and I know the sky is green now would be acceptable. We’re all entitled to making a mistake, and there is honor in admitting an honest mistake.
There is a price to pay when you admit that mistake. First the sky is clearly blue, and we all know the sky is blue. Your willingness to accept the third parties argument that the sky is green tells us something about you and the judgment you exercise in the decision making process. Next week when you show me which way is up, I’ll wonder for how long you will realize which way is up. As the pig with some lipstick comes by with the argument that up is really down, how long will you stand fast and defend the obvious? You may not be the person I want to represent me in important matters. Your judgment, your character and your integrity is too nimble for me. I want someone with a more steadfast integrity. When those of us who believe this way is up hired you to represent us and you swore to all of us that this way is up, then you’re expected to fight a hard battle in our name that this way is up. Defend our position, and show your steadfast integrity in the name of those who elected you and your confidence in the words you used to convince us that you should represent us.
When you tell me that you will not accept campaign contributions from lobbyists, I don’t want to find out that you accepted the money but it went through a church or an individual first. Your integrity means you will live by the spirit of your words not just the letter. I expect your integrity to be simple, direct and consistent. Yes means yes and no means no. Long winded explanations are a deviation from integrity.
If you choose to serve as a public servant, and we elect you, we bought you for that term of office. I expect you to stay bought, to those who elected (hired) you. Every word you utter, every action you take, every vote you make MUST be in the best interests of those who voted for you. You work for us, and you will be available to explain to us every move you make and every dollar that goes through your hands. You’re not free and independent, you belong to us, and you are answerable to us.
Honesty, simplicity, integrity are qualities we should all demonstrate all day every day. We all owe that to society, and everyone else owes it to society as well. If you ask me a question, I’ll give you an honest answer, When I ask you a question I expect the same from you, especially if we elected you to represent us. Integrity isn’t an option, it’s an expectation.
Why is integrity important? It’s important because it defines us. If you’re an honest decent human being, your integrity is never questioned. If you have shaky, or conditional, or flexible integrity, you’re not honest and you’re not decent and you can’t be trusted.
Can you live a decent life when your friends, family and associates can’t trust you?