As a new father, I desire to be able to teach my son the necessary values he needs in life. Among the top on my list is Integrity. I do not claim to have unquestionable integrity though. I feel that if I tell you, the reader, that I am a lawyer by profession and that I work within the Philippine governmental structure, you will immediately deduce that integrity is a quality that I do not see very often. I’m struggling to make sure that I do have it because I can only teach my son something by example. You cannot give what you do not have.
What is Integrity, really?
For the record, Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Even with this definition, it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it is. It seems like a quality that has to be put on trial in order for you to find out that it is really there. It is a reactionary quality that displays itself over time in difficult situations. This is where it differs from Honesty, which is its twin sister. Honesty can be on the spot where Integrity is usually revealed over the course of time.
Perhaps it is better explained by giving examples rather attempting to fix it within a particular description. Saying you’ll do something and not doing it may seem to be an example of dishonesty. However, at the time you promised to do something, you may have honestly intended to do it and then realized it was harder to do than expected. Yes, it perhaps makes you a liar, but more than that, it shows lack of integrity. Sadly, lack of integrity seems to come naturally to many politicians. “I promise to _________.” Then he runs for office again if he promised not to. Then he appoints a friend or a relative after saying no preferential appointments. Then he tolerates corrupt subordinates after promising a straight path. I believe that it is easy to be honest but difficult to have integrity.
Integrity is also the state of being whole or undiminished.
Having integrity is also a description of being strong in the structural sense. This meaning of the word seems to be different but somehow puts the first meaning in perspective. A good question to ask yourself is if you have remained who you are. Do you still adhere to the principles that your father taught you? Did the teachings of your church or your school stick to you in adulthood?
We live in a world where it has become acceptable to do anything to make a sale. It is easy to make a sale under the wrong pretenses. If you promise heaven and earth, you can sell anything. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of one’s integrity. I mentioned politics earlier but the compromise of one’s integrity happens in most any industry. You wouldn’t need a Lemon Law if all the car dealerships had integrity. Like I said, integrity is time bound. You find out that someone has no integrity after a certain period. You pay your money, you bring your newly purchased car home and then find out after a week that the car salesman has no integrity.
I associate two words with integrity: Promises and Compromises.
These actions coupled with hardship and changing circumstances seem to be the formula to determine whether a person has integrity. This quality seemed to be more important in the old days. The old days where oral contracts were binding and handshakes meant everything. Not to say those handshakes are not honored anymore; they are if you are somebody. If you are the son of someone influential or you yourself wield some power.
Will you honor your word if you were dealing with the manong or the tindera that you may choose to never see again?
A promise is easy to make and it’s also relatively easy to keep when conditions aren’t difficult. That’s why written contracts of sale were invented. When one promises to pay and then the money is there to finally pay, I bet so many people welch on their obligations. Once the money is in your hands, it’s so hard to let it go. It’s important in these situations to remember that if the person knew you weren’t going to pay, they wouldn’t have rendered the service or given you their trust. What seemed like a minor infraction turns into full-blown swindling when you think about it.
What the second definition of integrity looks at is what is contained within.
How strong is a foundational column? Will you know by looking at it in plain sight? No, you won’t. What seems to be strong from outside may be made from something inferior like cork. Integrity is about what is within. When the spotlight is on you, chances are you will make the right choice. But what will you do when nobody is looking? How about if nobody will find out? Will you still do the right thing? Will you make a bridge with compromised foundations? Do you have compromised foundations yourself? It will take some stress tests to figure it out for sure. If your foundation isn’t tested, you will never know. You might seem like a great person but only when you are faced with difficult choices will you know “what you are made of.”
I would like to tell my son someday to do good even when nobody is looking. Your conscience should steer you in the right path. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep. If it’s going to be difficult, think once, twice, and thrice before you let the promise come out of your mouth. Don’t let a handshake mean nothing. Be true to your word to everybody, no matter what his circumstances are, no matter what your status is. Not because circumstances can change and if you are on top today and the other person is down below, things can easily change and you might be having a hard time now while the person you’re dealing with has improved fortune in life. Not because of that, even if its true. Not because God sees everything and not just because it’s the right thing to do. Do the right thing because it’s who you are.