There are a number of definitions of integrity out there and most of them focus on honesty and a strong moral compass, leading to a sense of wholeness (or sometimes a separate definition of wholeness). Those are useful but they miss a core part of the meaning this word has for me.

I’ve seen memes that say things like “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one’s watching” which adds (or removes?) a layer of performative honesty. That’s nice and all but still misses the mark for me.

To me integrity isn’t just about honesty, having a solid moral compass, or even “acting rightly” regardless of circumstance. All of those terms are too subjective – too easily warped to whatever someone claims to uphold as their truth.

I find that there needs to be a level of consistency and of actions matching words. There needs to be allowance for growth, so consistency shouldn’t be taken to mean always saying and doing things in a certain way regardless of their appropriateness. That said, integrity also incorporates accountability in the change process.

So it isn’t just that someone says and does one thing today and the opposite tomorrow and the rest of us are stuck ferverently hoping the switch is due to some new insight. If I say “x” today and then tomorrow say, “wow – I mean Y, not x” there should be some kind of acknowledgement that I’ve come to realise there are inherent issues with x and y is a better fit for my values for a, b, and c reasons and, as such, will be my adopted philosophy until I learn of something better.

This acknowledgement of the elements behind my shift doesn’t necessarily have to be public. However, if I have made a promise to someone and come to understand that promise was made in error – for whatever reason – I need to be open and upfront with that someone about why I will no longer be able to fulfill that promise.

It isn’t easy, certainly, but that’s part of why integrity isn’t a quality that everyone can lay claim to. If person A is in a relationship with person B that precludes the making of promises to person Q, yet person A makes a promise to person Q and that promise is broken, person A needs to be honest with person Q about what happened. This isn’t an opportunity for the blame game. It is pure cowardice for person A to pretend that the promise to person Q was never made or for person A to hide behind person B’s determination that the promise is invalid.

Do your own emotional labor. It may seem easier to ignore things or to let other people fix them for you but that will only make things worse in the long run. It sucks. It is hard. You likely won’t get it right the first time. No one can force you to do it and trying to manipulate people into doing it ends badly for those involved. Get support in the ways that you need it, gird your loins if that’s your preference, and – whatever this looks like for your personal life situation – fucking do it.


One thought on “Integrity

  1. Very well said! It’s almost as if “integrity” must be an integral part of a person, integrated into one’s identity — rather than something to be shed or changed with minimal effort or time…


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