We want to live true to something. What we believe in is different. But the desire to have integrity, to live to it, seems universal.
What We Live By
We believe in universal truth and right, set by God. We want to live to learn and act as best as we can to that divine standard.
Or we feel a compass inside ourselves that we want to follow. We don't want to be a contradiction to ourselves. We feel at peace when we outwardly express what is actually inside.
Or we feel drawn to a worthy cause or principle. We gather around it and want to live so that the thing we say is important is reflected in our behavior.
Observing the Good
It is satisfying to feel that we have stayed true to our standard, given by God, felt in ourselves, or in an espoused cause or principle. It is satisfying to see others live with integrity. We feel a pride for them, observing that they are making choices according to conscience.
Even in cases where their conviction of what is right or good is not what guides us, we respect and are awed by their example. Especially in cases where we disagree, if we sense others are acting according to their highest orders of principle and right, we feel that their act has a real worthiness because of their conviction.
Attempts at Integrity
Why do we sometimes, then, deny integrity? We might shrug it off privately in our own hearts, justifying our own actions that contradict previously or even currently-held principles. We might see others devolve from their own positions of integrity and attempt to ignore it because of our own guilt of imperfection. We might trade our integrity for something we convince ourselves is worth the trade.
We might. We sometimes do. From that point, our integrity can be strengthened through change and recommitment to values. No human is perfect. Yet integrity is not lost as long as it is sought without purposefully discarding it.
Even more difficult to understand, why do we sometimes deride integrity? We see someone live according to principle when it really matters -- when it is difficult and at personal cost -- and then scorn or denounce the act. This is evil. This is standing against good. It doesn't seem possible to be a principled position to take. Respect for conscience can accompany disagreement with conclusions or choices.
Perhaps it's that we really don't believe we're observing integrity. But it's nigh impossible to know what is in another's heart. We should be wary of judgement. We know our own imperfection in living with integrity. Yet we know our desire to have it and live to it. And we sense that this is a good that we all seek.
Start and Continue with Integrity
I hope for more integrity -- in myself, in those I love, in our communities, in those who lead us, in the institutions of civilization. In a society increasingly diverse in standards, beliefs and principles, we can still encourage and protect and admire the integrity that each of us strives for.