Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What is integrity?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary there are 3 definitions:
1. Rigid adherence to a code or standard of values; probity;
2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness; and
3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
These are not “mutually exclusive”, but are added together to create a multi-faceted view on integrity. Like a gem, it might take on different hues and reflections when moved and held differently, but it’s still the same core.

Integrity, to me, is defined as “no conflict between thoughts, words, and actions”. This is consistent with the dictionary definition. Conflict in word and action would result in being divided against oneself, resulting in inconsistency in values. It’s difficult to determine “thoughts” so I must rely on “actions and words”. If those are consistent over time, I assume that they reflect thoughts as well. “Walk the talk”; if a manager at work tells me to work 8 hours a day and then he consistently leaves early, their actions and words don’t align and therefore integrity is lacking.

“Value” is an important aspect of integrity. It’s not just consistency over time and in “words and actions”. There is also a component of “ethics” in the realm of “value”, as in “standard of code or value”. According to Buddhist beliefs, this is reflected in compassion, represented by love, charity, kindness, and tolerance. Right Speech,, Right Action, Right Livelihood. I see this as “treating others as I want to be treated” as a vital part of ethics. This supports “consistency in thoughts, words, and actions”. I believe that offering up help is an important behavior and I try to do that consistently. From small actions like rearranging chairs, picking up trash, and making copies to larger actions, like donating a portion of my salary to environment education and turning my backyard into a “certified wildlife habitat”.

No conflict between thoughts, words, and actions consists of behaving the same way regardless if “anyone is watching or not”. It is difficult to judge what one is thinking, so the external “words and actions” is how consistency is seen from the outside. There is also an aspect of “consistency” that is a foundation to “adherence to code of values”; adherence can only be judged over times. If there’s an exception, if I keep extra money given to me during a purchase for example, it was an unethical behavior. However it doesn’t make me immediately an unethical person, therefore to be label , lacking in integrity forever. There are always exceptions and we human beings are full of mistakes and course correction as the mistake is realized.

We all wear “different frameworks” that cause “integrity” to change in scope, but not in definition. We belong to different groups (immediate family, work group, university).

Then as a citizen of the United States, we as a population also have integrity” and should behave as such. This means the values and adherence to those values must be part of the decisions and behaviors that we display. I don’t believe we act with Integrity since I no longer understand the values that we hold true. I don’t believe we have consistency in thought, words, and actions. We as a nation push our beliefs and government onto others and when they are unaccepting, we push harder, all the while declaring “we are a peace-loving people” and “in God we trust”. I feel the conflict and see the reaction from other people who aren’t being treated with care, as we want.

We as a population on Earth also have a framework of integrity. However, I believe the larger puzzle pieces of nations and religious differences, puts these into conflict so we don’t live fully with integrity. I don’t personally believe that we treat others as we want to be treated. There are wars which are not person against person, but nation against nation. We don’t live in a state of being unimpaired. As we think short-sightedly about the environment and peace, the whole of the human race is acting without integrity. We kill animals, burn rain forests for farming, push out to get more space for ourselves, including Native Americans and other indigenous populations. We are not looking for balance between what we perceive our needs to be and nature. I believe we have a huge disconnect between thoughts, words, and actions and therefore are not acting with integrity.

I’m unsure as to “what’s out there”, beyond Earth and this galaxy. I imagine there are other life forms and other beings; I find it hard to believe “we’re it”. And I would look to them to behave consistently with thoughts, words, and actions (in whatever form that might take) and adhere to their standards and values. I believe all beings regardless of location in the universe have a desire and goal to live with integrity.

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