Tuesday, 27 November 2012


I don't think you're allowed to self-evaluate your integrity.  I think the proof's in the pudding on that one.  But I will say that's it's always been a theme word for my life.  If you plant a flower in your yard, it's going to wither when it gets too hot or too cold.  If you put a rock out there, it won't.  It's gonna look the same whether it's a gentle spring day or a hailstorm.  The rock has integrity.  It stays the same regardless of the circumstances.

Steel is another thing that is said to have integrity.  The less impurity, the less foreign matter in the mix, the stronger the steel - the more integrity.  It's the same on the inside as it is on the outside.

Rocks.  Steel.  Geez.  I sound like a pickup truck commercial.  Also sounds boring.

So here's the challenge.  What does a human who has integrity look like?  My guess - they'll bring three things in line with each other: their thoughts, their words, and their behaviour. 

How do I get there?  Humans have this funny habit of having a perceived personality and then a blind side.  So when I speak, and when I think about myself, I speak and think as though I am the person I picture myself as in my brain.  However, my actions will belie the fact that I don't always measure up to the man I imagine I am.

The stronger your ideals, the larger the gap between your perceived self and your real self.  That's a toughie.  What's better?  Having strong values, or having integrity?  Is it possible that integrity actually means toning down your beliefs to something you can actually live up to?  Don't get me wrong - don't go all the way to the other side and say, "If I don't keep any convictions, I don't need to feel guilt for any of my actions."  That's cheating too.

You're creating a lot of stress for yourself when you're writing cheques with your conscience that your actions can't cash.  I think integrity means having a realistic impression of yourself - what you can and can't do.  And then not setting yourself up for failure.

So, what if I find a flaw in the steel?  A crack from an inconsistency in the formula?  Well, it's awfully hard to fix, isn't it?  Kind of like a cavity, you'd need to drill out any weak spots, so that you are grafting in to the solid, pure, good stuff.  Then you need to painstakingly layer in pure, molten filling that's made as solid as the existing stuff, or better, so that the weak spot is gone.  If that's my personality that we're talking about, that means coming clean about the weakness, making the appropriate reparations, and then painstakingly correcting my behaviour by changing my habits.

Sounds hard.  When I just write it out like that, I can see why it's mostly an aspiration.  But when you find a person who is this way - MAN is it ever amazing.  They say what they mean, they keep their promises, you know what to expect from them.  They aren't dramatic.  They are reliable.

Have you ever run into a football player, or a really strong person?  Even though they're made of the same cellular structure as you, chances are you bounced off them like you had just charged headlong into a tree.  Now picture someone who is like that mentally.  That's a person with integrity.  The real deal.

So, anyway, that's what I think integrity is.  I'd tell you how to get there, but I don't stinking know.  Just keep going, I guess.


  1. I just saw a photographer who said "I'm going to sacrifice *everything* to be successful!"

    That may be true, and he may be successful, but he probably doesn't define it the same way I do. There are a number of things that I won't sacrifice, and I recognise that that will limit the level of my success in his eyes, just as his standards might limit the level of his success in mine.

    I once heard that integrity is living fully into your purpose. In that sense, a flower that grows fast and withers away has fulfilled its purpose. You're choosing hard stuff (eg rock and steel), and I look at something like bamboo -- strength to me is in resilience.

    My point is that it's okay to be different -- we just need to choose our targets deliberately, and keep making the same choice every time out. *That's* why integrity is tough. :-)

  2. Dude, I love you to pieces and I like most of what you say on this blarg... but I fundamentally disagree with the idea that humans can be a rock or a piece of steel, and moreover, that that's a good thing to be aspired towards.

    If we lived in sparse log cabins, or in the wild wild west, that'd be a cool ideal... but human societies are dense, thick with people, and as such, a rock is a very uncompromising shape, that's hard to be around, when humans have to fit together so close, that it'd be better to be a puzzle piece, or a throw pillow.

    Humans are made of meat, and meat is flexible, and that flexibility is what helps us adjust to new situations. There ARE people whose self-image is that of a rock, who hold onto some principle in order to serve some image of themselves... but the cost of their self-image is that EVERY SINGLE person around them has to be somewhat to a lot MORE flexible and adaptable, because someone's being bull-headed. The person who's more flexible and accomodating? Others will prefer to be around that person, prefer to work with them and for them, and have a more harmonious life with them.

    A person who resembles a bean bag will get along better in life than someone who's a rock: a beanbag stretches, adapts its shape when necessary... but also has limits to how far it can and will bend. I respect people who are adaptable... but also know when, and how, to draw lines. I don't have a lot of patience for people who put other people out, for the sake of some image they have of themselves, and if someone doesn't like it, they tell them they can stick it, because "I am who I am!". That's a type of selfishness in my book.

  3. Thanks guys, for the great comments. Brad - really well put. Rocks aren't the only thing that have integrity. Know what you're purpose is, and then live into it. Not in a dualistic battle of idea vs. reality, but in a collection of small decisions, all made with the same end result in mind. The worlds biggest rubber elastic ball still had to be made one rubber band at a time. If anything, the last one was probably harder than the first one.

    Rob - you're right, and thanks for teaching me. Obstinacy doesn't jive with integrity to me. Any perhaps I'm muddling my definition of integrity with my idea of what purpose I'm trying to live into. That said, I'm not trying to be obstinate. Steadfast, yes. But resiliency and flexibility are part of steadfastness, because when a dogmatic person faces a challenge to their beliefs, they become a different person - very hard to be around. And I couldn't agree with you more that, while we are being CONSISTENT between our thoughts, words, and actions, we still need to be resilient to the action and reaction of the world and the people around us.

    Thanks for taking it a little further guys.

  4. I personally agree that this is Integrity: These three things in line with each other: their thoughts, their words, and their behaviour.

    Exactly that.

  5. Being a nature & music guy, I use analogies for many things daily. Usually I would have a great analogy for integrity, but you've got me thinking; there is none that work.

    A rock is cold, hard and unforgiving (sometimes) and I like to climb them, but that's not equal to my integrity.

    Steel is manufactured, unnatural and brittle in extreme cold, soft in extreme heat. I'm none of those things.

    A flower is living, breathing & giving, but does not think for itself. That's not my integrity either.

    Integrity, to me, is something more than an analogy can illustrate (weird, because that's how I teach). Integrity is forgiving, strong, compassionate, believing, self-aware, confident ( I could go on forever...)

    Integrity involves living for your purpose.
    Living for your purpose involves integrity.

    Both take consideration and consistency.
    We can't have one without the other, but we've all been known to try.