Honesty and Integrity: Are they outdated values?
I have always been proud that I lived in a country that prided itself on its integrity and human rights policy. Now, with tweets of “Fake News” or alternate facts, of withholding truths, of outright lies especially under oath, of hiding suspicious and possibly illegal financial dealings by those in public office, I find myself questioning the importance of honesty and integrity. For me, this also brings into question our relationships: with our loved ones, our partner, our community, or public leaders, and with ourselves.
Without relationships human experience of life as we know it wouldn’t exist. Our culture is based on cooperation, negotiating, mutual support, and working together. Without relationships our culture would be very different. Even war and conflict involves the experience of relating, or not relating.
Relationships are of course complicated and have many elements – but there is one element that binds relationships together. That fundamental element is trust.
How do you build trust in your relationships – including your relationship with yourself?
Strive to live your life adhering to two values: Honesty and Integrity!
Honesty: Be true to others in all that you do.
I had two very important relationships in the past. They both were not always truthful with me. The mistruths, deceptions, and outright lies, even the little white lies, eventually broke my trust. Once that trust was broken, I couldn’t get it back. At my core I no longer trusted either of those people. Eventually, the lack of trust destroyed both relationships.
What happens, then, when our public leaders withhold truth, lie, engage in suspicious or illegal financial dealings, or consistently make accusations of others misconstruing the truth?
Do we continue to make excuses for them, claiming they have done some good for the country so they are still OK? Do we continue to hope there is at least some truth in what they are saying or doing? Do we turn a blind eye to the suspicious dealings and go about our business? Or do we hold them accountable and keep insisting on the truth?
Integrity: Be true to yourself in all that you do.
Integrity is intertwined with our values. I learned my values from a composite of what my parents taught me, my religious upbringing, and from my education. They included basic concepts like:
- All people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- Be compassionate to those in need.
- Be tolerant of differences.
- Do no harm.
- People have the right to be free of discrimination based on race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Why are these values so important?
First, the greatest personal achievement, I believe, is to live your life in such a manner that you are happy with who you are. If integrity is absent, can you truly be happy with yourself? Sure, you can pursue pleasure, you can party, have fun, and buy things that bring you enjoyment … but will that bring you a deep sense of self-satisfaction and fulfillment? Without those things – if you engage in lies, indulge your greed and quest for power in ways that are harmful to others – can you actually be happy with yourself?
If honesty is lacking, then you end up having to lie to yourself, or exaggerate the truth, to justify your own actions. When you lie to yourself, you violate your integrity. Without integrity the path to authentic happiness and fulfillment is blocked. There will always be that lingering feeling of guilt or even shame that will put a damper on deep personal self-satisfaction.
If you can’t be honest with the people in your life, you can’t develop long-term meaningful relationships because trust will eventually be eroded. No matter how skilled you are at deception, the truth eventually reveals itself. When it does, trust is lost just like it was with my two relationships. Without trust the relationship decays from within, like a cancer.
This is why I can’t support statements by public leaders that seem to shift with the wind. Why I question the integrity of those who turn a blind eye to questionable financial dealings and shifting “facts.” Why I can’t support closing our borders to refugees escaping the horrors of war or the danger of terrorists and persecution. Why I can’t support billions of dollars being invested in a wall to separate us from our neighbors, when these same neighbors are so desperate for employment they will take our most menial of jobs. Not to mention that this wall will siphon off funds from much needed programs that can help our own children, seniors, and the ill and vulnerable.
If you believe taking a shortcut, sacrificing your integrity, and living out of alignment with basic values will somehow get you more money, success and security or even more fun and pleasure, think again! You’re probably thinking short term. In the long term, violating trust with others or with your self is the surest way to failure.
In addition, remember to never confuse pleasure with happiness … they mean different things and carry different values. Pleasure is a short-term feeling, while happiness is a long-term element of the human experience.
Of course, your values and the meanings you attach to honesty and integrity can be different from mine – but regardless of how you define these values, I strongly urge you to take a serious look at how you apply these values in your life, your business, your relationships, and your responsibility to the world. Short-term results may be deceiving –think about the life you want to create … the person you want to become… and the world you want your grandchildren to inherit.