Integrity is like virginity

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.”

CS Lewis

A great definition of integrity is always doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, even when the choice isn’t easy, and even when acting with integrity can have serious negative consequences.

Living life with integrity isn’t just about having high morals and clearly defined values. Integrity is a choice we make, and it’s a choice we must keep making, every moment of our lives. It’s a verb.

Integrity implies consistency. There’s an old Japanese proverb that says “The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.”

The word integrity comes from the Latin word “integer”, which means “intact, whole, complete,” and figuratively, “untainted, upright”. People of integrity do not say one thing and do another, believe in a value but do not keep it or pursue it. Compromises are not acceptable. People with integrity are true to themselves.

Integrity is also essential on a public level for good governance and for building strong institutions, and assures citizens that the government is working in their interest, not just for the select few. Lack of integrity by politicians or people in the higher echelons of government is what has lead people around the world to be disillusioned by politics, governments and institutions, and impoverishes society and on several levels and in many different ways.

The world around is is in very bad shape. It will only start to change for the better when people (we) start acting with integrity. That means acting with full honesty, fairness and justice. We need to demand integrity from all around us, and from those in power. Only then will the world start changing for the better. But it is useless expecting and demanding integrity from others unless we demand it of ourselves first and foremost.

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