Integrity and how to lead a life based on principles of honesty
Is it better to lie to ourselves or is it better to lie to others?
Integrity is a character trait only honest people can have. Most people lack integrity. They might have it in some areas of their life and not in others. That is situational morality, not integrity since it loses sight of principles based on convenience.
Therefore lying to others or lying to yourself, both aren’t that far from the other. Most people that can’t keep their word to other people can’t keep their word to themselves as well.
This is not where it ends though because people that deceive the world, deceive the people closest to themselves as well.
Just like you can’t be in two places at once physically. Similarly, you can’t be in two places at once ideologically. Truth tends to always come out sooner or later.
This is what most people try to do. They keep acting consistently in one way but when it’s not convenient their actions change and they give in to hypocrisy. This is called Situational Morality.
To be a person of integrity you need to be honest throughout. You can’t be honest in one area and dishonest in the other.
Nature tends to spill out.
You would think that you can separate your behavior but it isn’t possible as anything that you build in yourself over time becomes ingrained in you.
In Hindi, these ingrained attributes are called ‘Sanskar‘. It’s like a rope that you rub against a Boulder. Rubbing a boulder with a rope doesn’t change it when done for the first few times but with repeated efforts, you begin to see marks appearing on the rigid boulder.
When you develop a habit of lying it becomes a reflex response every time you feel things are going out of hand. This happens even in areas you know you shouldn’t lie.
Things get out of hand without integrity
Even though consciously we would never want to betray the trust of people close to us, our subconscious mind has been programmed to lie by repeated lies we have told over the years.
Whenever we fail to hold firm to our word or can’t speak the truth due to disruption in our current way of life we instantly resort to lying. We think it’s not a big deal when we do that but the damage is already done.
People closest to us lose the respect and trust they have in us. Once we begin to lie we can’t stop. Here’s the good news though. It works the same in reverse as well and the more you speak the truth the easier it becomes to speak it in the future.
Building a character of integrity starts with difficult beginnings
The problem is it is the hardest in the beginning. We all feel like we live in a situation where if we begin to speak the truth the entire world around us would collapse. For most people, this isn’t true.
Most people assume the worst to happen when they make a change. It rarely does, however, even if you belong to this small subset of people who might have their entire way of life collapse if they start speaking the truth this is what I have to say to you. You need honesty the most.
Dishonest people can’t stay near people with integrity
Our way of life is designed by the choices we make. Once we choose the path of honesty it becomes very difficult for dishonest people to be on good terms with us. If you stay on the path of honesty you will begin to see through the pretenses of people.
The truly honest people will encourage this change. This is why it’s hardest at the beginning. You sometimes have to essentially uproot the people you thought were your closest peers out of your life and that can be hurtful.
If you keep lying though, you will never have peace, and your mind will always be in a state of conflict.
Lie lives on
When we lie it doesn’t stop. It takes a life of its own and propagates further. Sooner or later it catches up to us and we face a loss that is now much greater than the immediate consequences we would have faced if we spoke the truth. Lying is making bad choices and trying to run away from their consequences.
“Integrity is always doing what is right and good. Regardless of the immediate consequences.“
–Joseph B. Wirthlin
People that lack integrity can’t stand the people that have it. The clashes that they both have become just too much for them to take over time.
Having integrity, apart from pushing away dishonest people also attracts the people that value it. If we stick to our principles and stay on the path of honesty our influence on people keeps growing. Rather than the superficial personality ethic, people come to respect us for our character ethic.
Relationships depend on it
Integrity becomes the foundation for respect and trust that all lasting relationships are based upon. No lasting relationship can be built on the foundations of deception and dishonesty.
Even a master manipulator can’t have a fulfilling relationship with the people they hold dear, their actions give a glimpse of the hypocrisy in their character.
Even the losses faced by speaking the truth turn out to be blessings in disguise in the long run. Looking back after traveling on the path of honesty and integrity you realize that, although it looks incredibly difficult it is moving forward, in the long run, its the easiest path there is.
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
What is integrity?
Integrity comes from the Latin word integer. Just like the whole numbers they define the quality of being complete and unbroken.
Cs Lewis defined Integrity as
“Doing what is right, even when no one else is watching.”
Thus to be a person with integrity, we need our thoughts, our words, and our actions to be completely in sync.
Is Lying in small matters is okay?
We all curse politicians that run for an election. It’s because they make several promises to their constituents. After winning the election however everything goes back to business as usual.
We can’t bear their dishonesty but we don’t follow in the path of honesty ourselves. We think to ourselves that when the stakes are that large we would never lie. That usually is just a way to make ourselves feel better.
When we lie about small things, we are bound to lie about large things. After a quick calculation in our mind, we make a prediction and if we think it’s less likely to be caught, we can’t help but lie.
Think about it, if you steal 10 bucks can you trust yourself that if an opportunity presents itself to steal 100 bucks without anyone knowing you wouldn’t steal? If we lie in trivial matters we are bound to lie when the stakes get high.
Lying and business go hand in hand
A story of a carpenter.
There was once a carpenter who was remarkable at his job. After a long time of working in his field, he finally had enough saved and went to his boss to talk about retiring.
The boss felt sad about him leaving and asked him for one last favor.
His boss asked him to make one last house for him before he retires. The carpenter unwillingly agreed to do one last job for his boss but it was apparent by his skill and craft that he wasn’t giving his all.
After a few months, he went back to his boss and told him that he had completed his assignment and the house was built. The boss smiled and gave him the keys to the house saying that this house was a gift for the years of excellent service the employee had put in.
Lying leaders can never engender trust in the people that work for them
By being less trustworthy they incentivize that behavior in others surrounding them as well. When the leader always has self-interest in his heart rather than the interest of the group. The people working under the leader will lack trust in him and they all will look out for their interest as well.
Everyone will play it safe and look to secure their positions rather than risk telling the truth. Dishonest leaders lack ideological consistency to encourage loyalty in their employees.
People that work with integrity and honesty learn faster and become more productive in the work that they do
Amy Edmondson in the year 1990 was researching the medical mistakes made in the hospital that was a big problem at that time. Her goal was to find out if better medical teams made fewer mistakes.
She found out that the most cohesive teams made the most mistakes and she couldn’t make sense of these findings. Later on, she realized that the better teams were more willing to talk about the mistakes they made and learn from them.
“Give up being perfect for being authentic.”
How can we be more honest?
The only way, to be honest, is to live consciously. To embrace honesty we need to learn to speak the truth to ourselves. We need to begin by accepting ourselves with all our flaws and defects.
Until and unless we can’t stop living in denial and speak truth to ourselves we can’t have integrity in our lives. By working on ourselves and keeping the small commitments we make to ourselves, we start building momentum and courage inside us.
Slowly and gradually we begin to keep our word with others and start to journey towards being a person with integrity.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
–Martin Luther King Jr
This week I hope you start by making a small commitment to yourself and work on keeping it. I wish you all the best on your journey. Remember Honesty is the best policy
and as the National emblem of my country ‘India’ reads –
“Truth always triumphs”.
We urge you to explore what your callings are. Do you possess the courage to chase them? We provide a free ebook called The perfect beginning that might help you in finding those callings.
Well, that’s all for this post. Have a good day and a good life.