What Is Integrity

What is integrity?

Well, here's something to start with. It's a "first draft articulation" so feel free to modify.

WhatYouThinkSayDo? = What you think, what you say, and what you do should all match.

If you hate broccoli but say you love it, that's ~integrity.

If you promise to mow the lawn, but don't plan to mow the lawn, chances are you won't do it = ~integrity.

Integrity is preserved if you mean what you say and keep your promises. Integrity is lost if you pretend to support a point of view but either don't care or are secretly opposed. Integrity is forfeit if what you do and what you believe are related only to the degree you get paid.

A common integrity failure is agreeing with the boss in order to keep your job when you passionately believe he's completely wrong. The continued success of the modern business model practically depends on the idea that most people will compromise their integrity in exchange for a paycheck.

Integrity is tough. It's tightly bound to honor.

The overall wellbeing of your life and your net happiness is governed by, among other things, the integrity of your actions. Closely aligned with DoWhatYouKnowIsRight? (or DoTheRightThing).

-- GarryHamilton

An over-used, but still true saying: "Someone that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk." Outward behavior that matches an inward standard. -- BrucePennington


Integrity is lost if you pretend to support a point of view but either don't care or are secretly opposed.

I do not subscribe to this statement. How should we rate the individual integrity in the following examples?

Alice expresses her disagreement with the approach at the start of a project, but once the decision has been made to follow the approach, she does not raise any complaints and commits her best effort to make the approach succeed.

Bill expresses his disagreement with the approach at the start of a project, and once the decision has been made to follow the approach, he continues to express his disagreement and proceeds to work in his own manner.

For the above examples, I would contend Alice showed integrity. The only way to learn something new is to commit to a point view to which one may be secretly opposed.

-- WayneMack

Alice is free to align with the greater vector. The senior commitment is to the success of the project, since that is worthwhile. The approach is less important. There is compromise but not abdication of integrity.

Bill needs to decide whether the approach is more important or the objective of the project is more important. If his insight is that the chosen approach will cause the project to fail then his choice may save the project and his integrity is not compromised. If his insistence is based on an unwillingness to change, not on the attainment of the objective, then he may need to JustLeave.

It is true that learning what one opposes has value. Integrity would then dictate that whichever approach can be seen to work better is then adopted.

In any case, the alignment of objectives with methods (and vice versa) must not violate DoTheRightThing.

If the approach/method has collateral effects that violate DoTheRightThing then, even though one works to achieve to senior goal/objective, one must also correct the method.

-- GarryHamilton

As Garry has alluded to above, the problem is that "think", "say", and "do" all have sliding scales. Also, most projects have many items about which to think, say, and do. Finally, the company has items beyond the project about which to think, say, and do. Finding the right balance is difficult.

-- WayneMack


I don't subscribe to that statement too, its too simplistic. How should we rate the individual integrity in the following examples?

Carols company has been bought up by a large player, whose company policy she disagrees with. But she is personally dependent on the paycheck (say she comes from a poor family and has to support them). She continues to do her work well, but does not point out her disagreement (which, given the new employers rules, might place her in a worse position).

I'd say that she behaved correctly, though I concede that there is a integrity conflict. Her responsibility toward her family has a higher value, than toward her job.

You could strengthen this example by replacing "company" with "oppressive regime".

-- GunnarZarncke

Did I mention that integrity is tough? You could, I suppose, have a scale with complete integrity at one end and complete politics at the other.

I work for a company whose product does not vector towards the eventual greater good. The bias this induces is further exacerbated by the fact that its management is incompetent and self serving. Nonetheless I still work here. The day I were to find a company whose 1) product is socially ethical, 2) policies toward its employees and customers are also ethical, 3) stability gives it at least a reasonable chance at surviving the next 5-7 years, I would hop the fence without pause. In the meantime, as you mention above, I have a family to feed, a mortgage to pay, and other bad habits that require an income. It is my fondest hope that I will get my own business up and running before too much longer, and I won't have to trade honor for dollars.

-- GarryHamilton

Gunnar, both of your examples show that we have multiple issues that we hold dear. Survival, pleasure, family, friends, country, God, ad infinitum. We must often choose between one over the other in life. Our behavior shows those choices. In a sense, integrity can be a neutral term. Carol's choice not to complain displays her value on her paycheck. Her behavior is integral with her values. We use the term, though, with the "ideal" in mind. If our integrated behavior leads to corporate corruption (because we value our greedy goals over societal laws), we say that person lacked integrity. -- BrucePennington


Is it a religious pursuit of FairnessDoctrine??

Many cultures, I think, have FairnessDoctrine? rated fairly important amongst the HigherPrinciples, in religion, culture, etc. Some gone "too religious" (e.g. eye for an eye).

Do unto others only if you wish to be treated that way

But some really like to be CriticizeBluntly, and others like (insert your favorite dislikes) ... hmm


WhyBother? if IntegrityIsElusive?

People know the word "honesty". If IntegrityIsElusive? and it meant honesty in most instances, do we have a need for using that word?

If IntegrityIsElusive? because it has "sliding scales", WhyBother?? Is it really tied to TheMeaningOfLife itself, for most people anyway? What are the HigherPrinciples that govern achievements in "a life of integrity"?


Alternate Definition

Would an alternate definition of integrity be that one either fully commits to a proposed approach or fully rejects a proposed approach; one does not go halfway and only partially commit. [Note: Even though I wrote this, for some reason, I feel it may not be adequate. Additional discussion is welcome!] HadTheLastWord?


How is that Integrity word used

One can perhaps examine the concept (perception) of the word by looking at how the world's most articulate people and companies use it. This is not an endorsement of exemplary behavior from these sources.

"... the honesty to acknowledge when we fall short of those goals, and the integrity to set things right." (From: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/citizenship/report/businesspractices.mspx)
Another expression of alignment is found at LifeVectors.


Here's an idea, integrity is when a person's beliefs and actions are integrated in a seamless, consistent whole. Lack of integrity is when a person's beliefs and actions conflict with each other or when there are gaping holes in their expressed beliefs viz a vie their actions.

So for example, a person lacks integrity that roundly condemns theft but stays studiously silent about murder because they like to tote a gun around. If they actually defended murder, they would then have integrity. They'd be evil, but evil with integrity.

Note especially that integrity isn't the same thing as honesty. It isn't sufficient for the person that likes to tote a gun around to explain how they fantasize about killing everyone around them. They actually have to believe they have a right to do this. If you believe your actions are wrong by your own personal standards, just confessing what you're doing isn't good enough. For an evil person to have integrity, they have to want to be evil and not just honest about being evil.

And no, integrity has absolutely nothing to do with honour. Many honour systems, especially the more authoritarian / subservient kind, invert integrity.


Integrity is SatyaGraha.
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