spirit |ˈspirit|
1 the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul
2 those qualities regarded as forming the definitive or typical elements in the character of a person, nation, or group or in the thought and attitudes of a particular period
1 convey rapidly and secretly

Thursday, June 5, 2008


A lot has been written about integrity and it still seems that most people don't understand what it is at all. As you know, I'm quite the fan of definitions so I won't hesitate to share with my dictionary's definition of integrity:

integrity | inˈtegritē |
1 the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness
2 the state of being whole and undivided
• the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction
• internal consistency or lack of corruption in electron

I like both examples of this definition but the second speaks to me on a day to day basis. The point being that integrity is not something that you possess. You can't "have integrity" because it refers to a state of being. And thus you can be "in" integrity and subsequently be "out" of integrity.

Unfortunately many people see integrity as something that they can judge. I recently sent out an e-mail to several colleagues entitled, "integrity" and nothing else. Many replied or called back to see if I was judging their integrity and one even sharply replied, "You should check your own integrity."

If integrity is the state of being whole and undivided then only you know if you are not in integrity. The point of this awareness is to "get back in" when "you're out." And thus a certain degree of self awareness is required. .

Being self aware requires that you truly understand your principles. And, of course, we walk around on the planet thinking that we've got our principles all figured out. If you think you're not in this group then imagine your response if someone came up to you and said, "I think you need to re-examine your principles." What would your reaction be?

Check Out Yourself
As is central to the darwinifesto, one's own integrity requires that you understand what is important to you. If companionship is important, then fighting with your companion may put you out of integrity. If humanity is important to you, then walking blindly by a homeless person may put you out of integrity.

But if you don't list humanity as one of your important points then does blindly walking by a homeless person put you of integrity? I would say the answer is, "No."

But equally important is not examining what is important to you. If you value your life then closely examining what is important to you is central to being in integrity. And if you haven't taken the time to write down what is important to you then how important is this anyway?

And if you haven't examined what is important to you then you may be living in a state of not being in integrity.

A Friend Apologizes
Yesterday I got a call from an estranged friend asking me to call her back. I had no idea what she wanted as we hadn't spoken for several months. We had become estranged over an issue and had subsequently not spoken since. The funny thing was that neither of us was angry over the issue but neither had picked up the phone to reconcile the relationship.

Much to my surprise she was calling to apologize. Please note that she wasn't calling to tell me that I was right and she was wrong. That wasn't her intent nor was it relevant (nor is it ever really all that relevant). I forgave her and we had a nice chat.

Without knowing it she put herself back into integrity. And by her extending the olive branch she also put me back into integrity. We were both out and it didn't require my effort to put us back in.

My point in writing this is that we should think beyond our own reality. Even when we're wrong, reconciling can have as much of an impact on the other person as it does on us. Calling up an old friend or estranged colleague and saying, "I'm sorry" has far reaching benefits beyond the immediate situation.

Your getting back into integrity might actually be opening the door for them to return to integrity too.

EXERCISE: Think of three people that you've lost contact with over the last five years and ask yourself, "Am I out of integrity with this person?"

If the answer is, "Yes" then get in communication with them. Explain to them that you were out of integrity and you want to get back in. Don't feel compelled to explain to them who was wrong and who is right. Just get back into integrity and let the relationship take a natural course from there.

Once you let go of "being right" you'll be amazed how many doors open for you!

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