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Monday, May 4, 2009

Integrity, a Missing Ingredient?

A simple definition of integrity is "the quality of having a sense of honesty and truthfulness in regard to the motivations for one's actions." ( These days, integrity seems to be a quality in short supply. True, every human heart is in conflict with the head. For example, thought and speech are hardly in harmony. This inner disintegration manifests itself in wrong types of outward actions, in low standards of morality and selfish interests on the physical plane. A need for integrity exists. Integrity, as a quality, is said to be derived from the same core group of values. In context of accountability, integrity measures consistency between one's actions and one's principles and methods used when an expected result appears incongruent with an observed outcome. In order to understand the complexity of integrity as a behavior, the reader needs a more detailed definition rooted in human ethics. One interpretation seems both easily understood and beneficial to the times. As described in modern ethics by Stephen L. Carter (1996. Integrity. New York), integrity requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong.[...] Integrity [...] is not the same as honesty [...] According to Shannon French, author of The Code of the Warrior: Exploring Warrior Values Past and Present, the essential element of a warrior's code is to set definite limits on what warriors can and can not do. In this sense, warriors value honor, integrity, justice and a sense of what is right and wrong. French states, "To the ancient warrior, the discernment between right and wrong is like night and day. Clear, obvious, unquestionable. To them, there are no gray areas, no 'that depends on what your definition of is is' (Bill Clinton). To the warrior, if something is not right, he will not do it." French provides a clear example of a group without integrity in war. He contends terrorists do not see themselves as murderers. They believe that they are warriors -- "freedom fighters" struggling against those they have dubbed their "oppressors." But no matter how they may justify their actions, if they refuse to accept any rules of war, they forfeit the right to be regarded as warriors. Warriors are given a mandate by their society to take lives. But, they must learn to take only certain lives in certain ways, at certain times, and for certain reasons. Lack of acceptance of any rules of war not only denies terrorists the label of "warrior," but also denies any claim they make to practicing integrity in their actions. Osama bin Laden and others like him feel no revulsion at the thought (or in the act) of killing unarmed, helpless civilians. They do not view this as murder. They would therefore consider it a triumph of will to carry out the charge to kill without mercy, discrimination, or an apparent show of conscience. Terrorists lack the integrity of discerning the true nature of right and wrong by believing in indiscriminate murder to perform a so-called "sacred" duty. A good example of historical integrity involves General Robert E. Lee. After the U.S. Civil War, Lee (1807 ~ 1870) was offered $10,000 a year to become President, in name only, of an insurance company. He declined the offer with these words, "Excuse me, sir; I cannot consent to receive pay for services I do not render." Discernment, action, and open statement all play a key part in this example. And, the action taken by Lee certainly comes at considerable personal cost considering the times. Golfer Bobby (Robert Tyre) Jones (1902 ~ 1971) showed considerable integrity In a national championship. In the championship, Jones drove his ball into the woods, and accidentally nudged it. Although no one saw him move the ball, he penalized himself one stroke, which caused him to lose the game by that margin. When praised for his integrity, he said, "You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank." Again, adherence to discernment, action, and open statement are evident. On the other hand, consider the message sent by a group of divorce lawyers.
The billboard, set high above Chicago streets, was enough to stop traffic. It featured, on one side, the torso of a buxom young woman wearing a black-lace brassiere and little else. The other side featured the torso of a young man with six-pack abs. The billboard's message? "Life is short: Get a divorce." (
Its originator, Corrie Fetman, says it "promotes happiness and personal integrity." According to Chuck Colson, however, it tells children that people are out there who are trying to break up their parents' marriage. In reality, the billboard says that marriage is about sex and only people with perfect bodies can enter into it. Do you think that being "true to yourself"-- true to what you like and accept by gratifying your own desires-- is what marriage is all about? To me, the billboard does not discern between what is right and what is wrong as it applies to advising people about divorce lawyers promoting happiness. Maybe scores of people who read the billboard are actively seeking a divorce based upon this false connection of brevity of life and sensual marital bliss, but the open statement is merely a plea from greedy lawyers trying to expand their business without concerns for integrity.

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