What Do You Stand For?

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” ~ Spencer Johnson, M.D.

Not long ago, I was traveling cross-country (U.S.). As I took a seat in the boarding area, I felt something protruding into my backside. Shifting forward, I realized there was a wallet wedged between the seat and back. I pried it out, looked around to see if anyone noticed and might, perhaps, acknowledge it as theirs. I opened the billfold to see if there was photo identification. And there was. I proceeded to the gate agent to report the find and the agent called for the individual by name. He didn’t come forward.

I soon boarded my flight, wallet in tow. When I arrived at my hotel, I phoned the owner. No answer, so I left a voice message explaining the situation and asked him to call me back. There was close to $700 in cash along with credit cards. Longer story shorter, the guy called the next morning, thrilled that I had found it. He asked if I would overnight express it to him, paying for the service from cash in the wallet. He also asked that I keep $100 as his thanks. I didn’t.

Not once did I consider anything but returning the wallet to its rightful owner. Which brings me to the matter of integrity: having a conscience; willing to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do.

In this case, integrity went beyond speaking the truth and taking responsibility for how you think and feel, to the action you take. Moreover, it includes the authentic presentation of yourself to others (being sincere) as well as the internal sense that one is morally coherent. It also means acting congruently with your values – regardless of what those values are. So a person who has integrity does not necessarily mean a person who does “good.”

The opposites of integrity are clearly negative: deceitfulness and insincerity.

Another way of thinking about being “whole” is that a person doesn’t have integrity so much as they are integrity. In other words, it doesn’t require some great feat to live in integrity. We just need to be ourselves, consistently. And in my view, there are (proportionately) few people in this world who are not genuinely well-intentioned at their core.

So how do you encourage and stay in integrity? Consider these exercises:

  • Quit telling small, white lies to friends (including insincere compliments). If you do tell one, admit it and apologize promptly. Monitor yourself and make a list of every time you tell a lie, even if it’s a small one. Try to make your list shorter every day.
  • Pursue humility. Not the “look how I put myself so low,” kind of humility. Instead, make a full, honest effort to acknowledge that you don’t know it all. With real humility we can embrace our own brilliance and applaud that of others.
  • Stop acting for the sake of others. We’ve all done it. We don’t go full-out or allow our true self to shine because of what others might say. This has killed more dreams and paved the way to destructive behaviors more than many addictions. Your opinion of you is far more important than anyone else. Strive to be the person you’ve always known you could be.

Socially, authentic people are well-liked. Are you? For what character traits?

88 thoughts on “What Do You Stand For?

  1. Hi Eric, nice post on integrity. I agree that the key is to align our actions with our values so that we live authentically in the world. As with most everything, I’m a work in progress. Being honest about the little things helps. Kudos on the wallet find and story. I’m sure you made his day!

    • Actually, I try to make someone’s day, everyday. The wallet story was just a bit more significant. Bravo to recognizing yourself as a work in progress. Many of us are and it seems more are beginning to shift into similar space. What amazes me about these subjects and the associated work is that (surprisingly?) so few can readily and clearly articulate their personal values. I don’t say this in a judgmental way, though I do find it a bit baffling. In any case, kudos to those on their unique paths, yourself included!

  2. Daily exercises are the key I think, even if one lacks somewhat in integrity one’s surely going to get there by following the daily exercises as those keep the focus on it.

  3. Great example of integrity in action, Eric.

    I found a woman handbag in a lady’s room once in a small cafe. I checked the bag for her name and had the cashier check around to see if she was still there . . . she wasn’t. The cashier called her house and she came and reclaimed her purse. Yay!

    I left my wallet at a hair salon a few years ago. The hairdresser called me . . . and I was the one who reclaimed my misplaced wallet. Such a good feeling. I offered her a reward, which she refused. I smiled at her refusal, walked over to her station, and left the money on the counter ~ “Consider it a bigger tip, with my thanks.”

    • It’s interesting to learn how different people interpret integrity. And I have no qualms with that, provided one’s personal values aren’t compromised or diminished when striving to be in integrity. To your remark, evidencing it in action is key.

    • Oh dear, Donna’s gone Vatican on me. 🙂 Raised in the RC Church, I know what sainthood entails. I am so not. Still, I’ll take a warm, well-intentioned compliment any time. 🙂 Thank you!

  4. I like your observation that a “…person who has integrity does not necessarily mean a person who does “good.”” I hold a door open for a lady, I call anyone a day older than me Sir or Ma’am and I say please and thank you to the point that it’s creepy to some. I would have returned the wallet as you did and not taken the reward. So do I have integrity… hmm I don’t know, I’m also honest to a fault these days. I would have never went out of my way to tell a friend her dress made her look fat, but she asked what I thought… I’d rather hurt someone’s feelings or lose a job than to say anything less than the truth.

  5. Being polite, honest (to a fault), courteous, and truthful… I believe each are components of integrity. They’re admirable traits and clearly ground you in your character. I sense and like your authenticity and openness. In my eyes, both are huge. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful comment.

  6. Sharp post Eric! Just recall how integrity and values were tested – at (the not always so) thin line between good and bad – in the epic struggles of the “Godfather” in three full length movie episodes… (A blessed) life truly starts with making the right choices early on, and then remember to stick to them.

    • I believe your last sentence is key, Chris. If we’re instilled with values and encouraged to live and buff them, then it’s quite likely we’ll continue on that trajectory. Thanks for creating time to share your comment. It’s spot on.

  7. I really struggled with acting for the sake of others in just about every aspect of my life. I dressed for the sake of others, ate for the sake of others, and even chose my career path for the sake of others. That entire time I was miserable. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you are loved just for being who you really are – your authentic self. Living in integrity is opening up to the possibility of pure love and happiness. Great post!!

    • Being inauthentic *can* be miserable. And what purpose does it serve, anyway? It took me a long time and a lot of work to finally accept “I am who I am.” As for acting for the sake of others, I love what a friend recently said: “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” (quoting Sweet Brown.) 🙂 Thank you for sharing your honest and encouraging thoughts.

  8. Pingback: What Do You Stand For? | iBourgie

  9. What a thoughtful post. I agree with everything except the “white lie.” No way in my family can you survive without those little gems. Trust me on that! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by and following “Honey.”

    • Thank you! Perhaps you could broker a truce in your family such that everyone agreed to no more white lies. How that might change your family dynamic. 🙂 Appreciate your creating time to read and comment.

  10. ” Honesty is the Best Policy” and ” Sometimes the Truth hurts”

    Loved reading this post Eric, and straight away your integrity shines through.

    Would that All could live by the rules of their hearts instead of the heads, but alas many are caught within the ego mentality of self and with it all the trappings of the material greed that has for so long been taught to strive for within our indoctrinated mind-sets, which for some of the Power greedy means they left Honesty way behind..

    I try to stand for what is right, and hand on heart, yes the white little lie has crept in not often, but now and again as I deferred from the truth to save another’s feelings. I guess I would have to say in regard to white lies for me it depends upon my intent.. Am I doing it for my own selfish needs, or to save another’s Hurt, Two different points of view, none making the lie any less of a lie, but both for different reasoning!

    Lovely to browse through your posts, and the title of this one caught my eye… 🙂
    In Gratitude
    Sue

  11. Thank you for your most thoughtful and poignant comment, Sue. I truly appreciate the time you created to read and share your admirable views and practices. “…live by the rules of their hearts…”. I’m warmed by that prospect. 🙂

  12. A great post to end the year and start anew. Thank you. I shall (possibly) henceforth be following at a discreet distance after a substantial break. Have a wonderful 2015, Eric.

  13. great post and I have to say Eric that it revealed some synchroncity: I see 111 and 1111 quite often and blog on it frequently. I have used photos of pillars in the past to illustrate these numerical sequences. Well, I just now published a post on 111 and then read yours here. And then I see the 3 pillars! Wow, grace is everpresent.

    Happy New Year Eric!

    peace always,
    Linda

    • There is definitely meaning in the sign of ‘one’s.’ And synchronicity is both real and telling. Appreciate your kind New Year wishes, Linda. May yours be filled with grace, hope and abundant blessings.

  14. This was a great post. I’m glad you re-blogged this as I might not have seen it as a newbie to your blog! You know what you’re talking about! Integrity… Honesty… *sigh*… if only more people followed these basic principles. I think it comes down to weakness and selfishness, maybe? Those that can’t follow your exercises are sometimes just too weak to face what comes with it…or too selfish to care at that time?

    While going through therapy with my soon-to-be-ex husband, the therapist shared with him that I’m what she would call a “truth seeker”… No matter how bad the truth is, I need it to function. Dishonesty, especially with those that are close to me, just disturbs me. I’m not perfect, I’m not holier than anyone else, I just would rather be truthful than try to keep up with a lie. It’s always a work in progress but there are few compliments better than being called trustworthy and honorable.

    • Truth seeker. I like that, Athena. Your comments, which are much appreciated, speak well of your character. And if we aren’t living and being in character, then we are less that we can fully be. To your observation, honor and trust and two significant personal values — worthy of being aligned with each of us! Thank you for creating time to read and comment thoughtfully on the post. Wishing you a happier 2015!

  15. So much for me to do to live in integrity. I often hold myself back for other people, am reluctant to tell people bad things, and put myself down way too much. But I have been told I have a great sense of humour and people like talking to me. I’ll take that for starters.

    • Having “starters” places you ahead of many, Ger. Some people have no clue about their strengths and values. Consider building on your self-awareness if that is an area you’d like to further develop. It’s pretty foundational!

  16. Owning who you are, being authentic- I know it took me until I was in my 40’s to figure that out, but what a blessing once I did! Being honest about yourself, working on what you want to change, is a good place to be, way to be. Great post.

  17. Brilliant Eric. Interesting things I’ve discovered. Your points about humility struck a chord. I’ve long discovered my realities and abilities and am very open and honest about them, owning them so to speak. When I do, people immediately try to “build me up”. Though I appreciate those who try to do this, it can be both frustrating and humorous when this happens. When I am acknowledging things I know are not my strong points I am not belittling my worth or my value. I am strong enough to say “this is what I am not great at” so let’s make sure if I’m the one doing it it gets done right! 😉

    • “Frustrating and humorous…” I know this too, Colleen. I don’t believe most of us belittle our worth or our value. But many of us are also disinclined to beat our chests.o me, there is a sprinkling of humility associated with integrity. Your being honest and open with your abilities and realities is a solid place from which to acknowledge and strengthen self. Thanks for your honest share!

  18. Interesting that I was thinking about this very subject while getting my shower this morning. I couldn’t agree more on your assessment. I lost my wallet once and the man who found it tracked me down through a doctor’s appointment card. When the nurse called to tell me some man found my wallet and left her his number for me to call, I insisted it had to be some scam. But when I checked my purse, sure enough my wallet was missing. I was so grateful to that man.

    I feel integrity is something we have when we do the right thing, regardless of what we’d really like to do. Living the Golden Rule.

    • The entire time I was originally crafting this post, Irene, I had The Golden Rule in mind. Thanks for surfacing it because doing the right thing, period, ought always be our priority. Your personal story aligns well here and I appreciate your sharing it. 🙂

  19. Funny what happened to me last night. I read the post and the comments (around 11:30 p.m.). I liked everything I read and wanted to write a comment, but then I read the advice again…I took it literally…and confessed to myself I was too tired to write anything more 😀 Great post Eric!

    • Thank you. I have literal tendencies, Tiny, so I appreciate your taking the suggestions to heart! Glad the the post and related comments were to your liking. I often get more out of what readers share with their input/feedback than the post’s message. Happy you opted for sleep. It seems a prudent choice… one that allowed you to breathe in Rumi’s morning air. 🙂

  20. Great post. It is the little things, that if a person is continually aware of and refuses to bend results in great rewards down the line…both internally (increase feelings of worth) and also externally (people will respect and see this strength). Integrity is worth.

    With the state of politics and shady business deals always capturing the headlines, it does seem if leaders are lacking in the integrity category. However, I think among the people we see on the streets every day and interact with, there is a strong sense of integrity. While a bit pessimistic in regards to some political/business leaders, I am very optimistic with the population as a whole. Your posts (and the comments I’ve seen this past year on your posts) supports this view.

    • It is worth, Randy, and the little things are what serve to remind and reinforce… if we’re aware of and heed them. And I concur; those (non-political/business) people with whom we interact on a daily basis *are* representative of a grounded and value-oriented population. We tend to too often let a few cloud our observations and beliefs about the many. Appreciate your acknowledging the posts and related comments as supportive of our like minds.

    • I’m not sure, Allen. I still have faith and belief in humanity. And in that lies a sense that there are a lot of people who want and are willing to do the right thing(s). Call me an omni-optimist but I root for the happy endings. 🙂

    • Having a conscience is one part of the equation, at least in my view. Acting positively and always doing the right thing is what conscience can yield. The good news is that many people still possess a conscience and act on/with it in character.

      Warm wishes for a 2015 filled with good health and new beginnings!

  21. I love that word and what it stands for – integrity. And I really like, Eric, how you point out that integrity is not synonymous with “good”. Having a healthy set of personal core values precedes the integrity that pours goodness into the world around us.

    I’m happy that your re-posted this so that I could catch a glimpse of it the second time around – thank you for sharing!

    • In my view, Dave, it’s a cornerstone word, quality and value. One that unfortunately, many still pay less attention to than is warranted. Yet slowly, I see people’s awareness shifting and their choosing to embrace integrity as a core value. Glad you had an opportunity to read and share your thoughtful comment!

    • I don’t know if what I’m doing is kicking butt, Tim, but I am enjoying it and valuing the connections and community that comes with blogging. Thanks for your kind new year wishes. Consider the same returned in abundance!

  22. Insightful read! Inspiring too. Not long ago a friend and I went for breakfast and coffee at a local supermarket. Due to an error on the part of the cashier, my friend’s coffee was not rung up on the bill – so he decided he’s not going to pay for the coffee and proceeded to walk out the store without paying. Facing a moral conundrum I confronted my friend about it in the parking lot and he insisted that NOT paying was the right thing to do, since in his mind; life handed him an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. But get this, he’s a lawyer! Nonetheless I was deeply disappointed and we got into an argument about him not paying for his coffee. He kept defending himself, saying that anyone else would’ve done the same thing. He kept using lawyer jargon in an attempt to bamboozle me with various lofty arguments. You returning the wallet to its owner reminded me so much of the situation I had with my friend, since during our argument I had to make an illustration to him about what I was talking about. Imagine picking up a briefcase full of cash: do you take it for yourself, give it to the cops, or claim the money for yourself? My friend insisted that he would take the money for himself with little thought for its rightful owner or getting the police involved. I was really shocked. Later, I asked someone close to me what they would’ve done and they said they would’ve taken the money too. I had a moment of extreme cognitive dissonance! Anyway, after much nagging and subsequent arguments – later that day, my friend went back to the supermarket and tried to pay for his coffee. Really makes one think, right?

    • Hi Josh. Yours is a meaty and appreciated comment. Thanks for creating time to read the post and share your thoughts and personal experience. I’m sensing a man of character at the other end of this comment thread. Why is it that lawyers often feel the need to justify or defend themselves? No need to answer, the question was more rhetorical.

      I believe in simple terms (and many know me as a fan and practitioner of simple), we are all cut from different cloth. Sure it has to do with how we were raised, what family and society instills in us, and how aligned we are with our personal values. But what may work (and be valued) for you and I may not float someone else’s boat; as evidenced by your friend. In the end, I simply choose to be my authentic self, part of which means consistently being in integrity. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  23. A wonderfully wrought, eloquent and insightful article Eric, for which, many thanks. I have just (re)subscribed to your blog as my initial attempt several weeks ago produced nothing by way of notifications. I gather this can occasionally happen in WordPress land; and I fear I will have missed much, though greatly look forward to your future pieces and perhaps to catching up on some of your previous work. Happy New Year Eric! Hariod.

  24. Thank you.

    Indeed, Hariod, as a software based tool, WordPress is not immune from technological glitches. Thanks for opting back in. Time and interest permitting, feel free to peruse the blog’s archives. I’d welcome your always thoughtful and substantive feedback. Warm wishes returned for a 2015 filled with peace and joy!

  25. It reminds me of Yau-Man’s (of TV show Survivor) William Shakespeare reference, “Love many, trust few, do wrong to none.”, which I also learned to be what to go by.
    It is great to know that we have our own hidden secrets of integrity or good samaritan deeds.
    How crazy am I to allow somebody, who doesn’t even speak English, to hitchhike around midnight. He knocked on my car window and asked if I drive him a couple of blocks.

    • I like the Shakespeare reference, Rommel. I wonder though, why one would want to limit it to “trust few.” Wouldn’t it be a better world if there was even greater trust between people? And rather than “hidden secrets of integrity” why not wear one’s integrity openly — not to boast or proclaim it to the world, but to clearly demonstrate the traits/qualities of people who live lives of genuine character. No need to answer if disinclined; I’m just thinking out loud. 🙂

      And I don’t think you were/are crazy. If your instincts led you to trust the situation and the individual, then why not? I would have likely done the same. Each of us senses opportunity to help differently. Great comments, kind one.

  26. Love this post! And the quotes are great! “Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.” I remember listening to a radio financial guru talking to a person on the air who had been given an unexpected credit of $250 in his bank account. The person was wondering if he should alert the bank about the error or just spend it as quickly as he could before the bank caught the error. The financial guru asked the person, “How much is your integrity worth? If you were to put a price tag on it, is it worth more than $250?” I remember this moment very clearly. I asked myself, “How much is my integrity worth?” and I have let this question guide my business and personal transactions and relationships since then. There is no dollar amount that could equal one’s integrity, and I strive to stay dialed in to this. I cannot count the times I have lost my wallet or purse (call me easily distracted at times) and someone has returned it to me with everything in tact. So many honest and wonderful people in the world! Thanks, Eric, for the great post! Much appreciated!

    • There is no dollar amount. Period. I wholeheartedly agree with your view. The absence of integrity or questionable alignment with it is one of the reasons I left a successful career in the corporate world ten years ago. Too many people misaligned with values, meaning and substance. I am increasingly warmed with the number of people in this blogging community who I strongly sense are of like mind — you and I included. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experience and appreciated perspectives!

  27. Wonderfully wise words here, Eric. Thank you for sharing your example of integrity. And your tips at the conclusion are very meaningful to me, especially the middle section on Humility, as that is something I plan to write about. You are an inspiration! Thanks again. 🙂

    • If I have inspired one individual with a post, then I am a happy man. To inspire and encourage action around one’s potential, jazzes me, Gina. Humility is big in my book. It seems, at times sadly, a dying art akin to chivalry. Glad the tip is meaningful for you. 🙂 And thanks for creating time to read and comment.

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