I have a problem with integrity and I need some help.
You know the type. They are always on time, every time and sometimes ahead of time. And if they are going to be late, they let you know. And if they say they are going to do something, it gets done. I always assumed that people that show up on time and keep their word have integrity. But is that always the case?
I’m in the business of organizing stuff, adventures, travel, work and all sorts of projects. I come up with ideas and then I literally manage to make them happen. And for them to happen, I need partners with integrity. But integrity is hard to define. For example:
My partner-in-adventures is my friend Ofer. If you walk into a crowded room, you’d have a hard time finding him. Most likely he’d be in a corner fiddling with some technology, or watching the action from a safe vantage point. But if I needed someone to meet me at the mouth of the Amazon river with a kayak on Thursday at 3:45 PM a year from now, Ofer would be there at 3:15 PM heating up the tea and getting the roof rack unstrapped. That’s integrity, but is showing up enough?
My partner-in-life is my wife Elizabeth. She shows up on time, but that’s not the highlight. Elizabeth is not just about doing the right thing; she’s about doing what must be done. This is a subtle but a huge distinction. If a friend is sick, I’ll check off my must-do-list: call, send a card or visit. Elizabeth on the other hand, will change the bed sheets, or run out to buy food, or give our friend a shave. Elizabeth would stay until whatever needed to get done got done. That’s integrity, but when do you stop?
My partner-in-dharma is Roni. She’s rarely on time, but those who know Roni, know that Einstein himself would have to rework a few formulas of relativity to calculate the energy per good she puts out to service her community. If you are hurting, if you need a meal, a job, or a roof over your head, she will take you under her wing no matter the time. That’s integrity, but it’s rarely on time or without risks?
My partner-in-commitment is Charlie. Once he takes on a project, nothing will stop him. He single-handedly revived his town’s newspaper by putting in 70 hour weeks for several years in order to educate the Andover community and give its citizens a voice. Very few would have taken on this project and none would have survived the long and grueling commitment. But what a gift Charlie bestowed on his community, just because he could. That’s integrity, but at what cost?
Integrity seems to have a variety of shades. Perhaps integrity is a concept that we strive for but never reach, or maybe we reach it in one aspect of our lives, but not in others. Just showing up on time, or doing the right thing, or giving till no end have elements of integrity, but may not be integrated with the rest of our lives.
Tricky stuff, but I think the basic unit of integrity is nothing more and nothing less than a person’s word. For a person to have integrity, his word must be whole, complete, unbroken, sound and in perfect condition.
What does integrity mean to you? Please share below…