What Is Integrity?
We’ve all heard the word at some point in our lives, but have you ever taken a moment to reflect on what it really means to have integrity? There are many definitions of integrity, but here’s what you get when you google it:
“the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness”
“the state of being whole and undivided”
While I don’t disagree with any of these definitions, I feel that honesty and morality are vague terms that mean a variety of things to a multitude of people. In order to truly understand integrity, we need to define it in universally understood language that is void of ambiguity and I feel that this definition does the trick:
“Integrity is what you do when nobody is watching.”
Using this definition as a framework to dissect integrity, it becomes easy to understand that integrity is intimately, almost inseparably, tied to character – who you really are. The interrelatedness of integrity and character becomes clear when you look at the following quote.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are… The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
– John Wooden
If we replace “character” with “integrity” we see that integrity is deep while reputation is superficial, and as we will see shortly, integrity begins with our thoughts and ends up shaping our lives.
Why Integrity Matters?
Integrity fuels dedication and strengthens commitment
- Commitment is about staying true to your word regardless of the circumstances (there are exceptions of course). True commitment demands dedication and dedication requires integrity. Without integrity, commitment dedication falters and commitment becomes unsure.
Integrity fosters dependability and is tied to accountability
- Being accountable means being true; it’s means being dependable and responsible for your actions. Integrity sets the foundation for accountability. If you can’t be true to yourself when you’re alone, how can you be true to others?
Integrity goes hand in hand with honesty and trust
- In addition to being accountable, integrity is about being honest, not only with others, but also (especially) with yourself. Without honesty, there cannot be trust and without trust, relationships suffer. Integrity earns trust and this trust is the cornerstone for building a relationship with yourself as well as with others.
Integrity begins with thoughts and manifests as destiny
- As I alluded earlier, integrity begins with our thoughts. Much like Ghandi expressed over a century ago, our thoughts are the foundation that shape the rest of our being. Therefore, in order to have integrity with our actions, we must start by having integrity with what we think on a daily basis.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”- Ghandi
Before I close, I want to share an example of what integrity looks like from one of the all-time hardest working athletes to ever walk the earth – Kobe Bryant.
If you’re not familiar with Kobe, he’s arguably one of the best basketball players (scorers) ever to live. But what impresses me the most about Kobe isn’t his ability to score, it’s his sickening, relentless dedication and commitment to improve. Kobe is well known around the basketball world for being the first one in and the last one out of the gym. He’s also known for his shooting routine – taking shots from specific marks on the floor and refusing to leave until he makes 400 shots. That’s right, Kobe, often shooting alone while everyone else is sleeping, has the integrity to count his shots and not stop until he makes 400 – no matter how long it takes. Kobe does this because he made a commitment to improve each and every day and Kobe knows that if he cheats, he’s only cheating himself – that’s an excellent example of what integrity looks like. Although this is a sports example of integrity, the same principles apply to all aspects of life.
I hope that this post left you with a better understanding of what it means to have integrity as well as why it’s an important part of our lives. The first step to any meaningful change is self-awareness and, at the very least, I hope that this article sparked some curiosity to investigate your own integrity. I’d encourage you to take some time, even just a few minutes, and find a quiet place to reflect on your thoughts – try to be mindful of how your thoughts might influence your actions.
I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest Oprah fan, but to keep with the tradition of ending these posts with a quote, here’s a good one to help round out what integrity is all about.
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey
In the material world, integrity refers to the strength and soundness of construction. Much like the internal structural integrity of a building, human integrity cannot be seen, however, it sets the foundation for growth and success. Establish strong uncompromised integrity and nothing will be able to shake your solid foundation.
Thanks for reading!
Joe Rinaldi, PT, DPT