Just so, a person of integrity isn't
divided against him or herself. They don't think one
thing and say another--so it's virtually impossible for
the person to lie. They don't believe in one thing
and do another--so one is not in conflict with one's own
principles. It's the absence of inner warfare, I'm
convinced, that gives a person the extra energy and
clarity of thought that make achievement inevitable.
Integrity really means having a
certain built-in set of attitudes. Let me give you
Integrity means living up to the best in yourself.
Years ago, a writer who had lost a fortune in bad
investments went into bankruptcy. His intention was
to pay off every cent he owed, and three years later he
was still working at it. To help him, a newspaper
organized a fund. Important people contributed
heavily to it. It was a temptation--accepting would
have meant the end of a wearing burden. But Mark
Twain refused, and returned the money to the
contributors. Seven months later, with his new book
a hit, he paid the last of his debts in full.
Integrity means having a highly developed sense of
honor. Not just honesty, mind you, honor.
The great Frank Lloyd Wright once spoke of this to the
American Institute of Architects. "What,"
he asked, "might this sense of honor be? Well,
what is the honor of a brick; what would be an honorable
brick? A brick brick, wouldn't it? What
would be the honor of a board? It would be a good
board, wouldn't it? What is the honor of a
person? To be a true individual." And
that's exactly what Frank Lloyd Wright was: an
individual true to his own standards and hence to himself.
Integrity means having a conscience and listening to
it. "It is neither safe nor prudent,"
said Martin Luther, facing his enemies in the city where
his death had been decreed, "to do aught against
conscience. Here I stand; God help me, I cannot do
Integrity means having the courage of your convictions.
This includes the capacity to cling to what you think is
right, to go it alone when necessary, and to speak out
against what you know is wrong. In the operating
room of a great hospital a young nurse had her first day
of full responsibility. "You've removed eleven
sponges, doctor," she said to the surgeon.
"We used twelve."
"I've removed them all," the doctor
declared. "We'll close the incision now."
"No," the nurse objected. "We
"I'll take the responsibility," the
surgeon said grimly. "Suture!"
"You can't do that!" blazed the
nurse. "Think of the paitent."
The doctor smiled, lifted his foot, showed the
nurse the twelfth sponge. "You'll do," he
said. He had been testing her for integrity--and she
Integrity means obedience to the unenforceable.
In a way, this is the heart of it. No one can force
you to live up to the best in yourself. No one can compel
you to get involved. No one can make you obey
your conscience. A person of integrity does these
During World War II, when our armies were slashing across
France, an American colonel and his jeep driver took a
wrong turn and ran into an oncoming German armored
column. Both men jumped out and took cover, the
sergeant in some roadside bushes, the colonel in a culvert
under the road. The Germans spotted the sergeant and
advanced on him, firing. The colonel could easily
have remained undetected. He chose, instead, to come
out fighting--one pistol against tanks and machine
guns. He was killed. The sergeant, taken
prisoner, told the story later. Why did the colonel
do it? Because his concept of duty, though
unenforceable, was stronger than his regard for his own
Difficult? Yes. That is why true integrity is
rare, and admired. But in terms of ultimate reward
it's worth all the effort. Just consider a few of
the dividends that integrity pays:
Boldness. Integrity gives a person the
strength to take chances, welcome challenge, reject the
unsatisfactory-but-safe for the unknown-with-chance-for-
improvement. A person of integrity has confidence
and can believe in him- or herself--because that person
has no reason to distrust him- or herself.
Persistence. Integrity often shows up as an
unshakable single-mindedness of purpose, a tenacity that
refuses to give up. "Never give in!" said
Winston Churchill. "Never, never, never,
never. In nothing great or small, large or
petty--never give in except to convictions of honor and
good sense." And he never did.
Serenity. People of integrity, I've noticed,
are shock-resistant. They seem to have a kind of
built-in equanimity that enables them to accept setbacks,
or even injustices. Harry Emerson Fosdick tells how
Abraham Lincoln was warned by his friends not to make a
certain speech while campaigning for the U.S. Senate in
1858. Lincoln replied, "If it is decreed that I
should go down because of this speech, then let me go down
linked to the truth." He was serene. He
did go down, but two years later he became president.
There are many other benefits that integrity brings a
person: friendship, trust, admiration,
respect. One of the hopeful things about the human
race is that people seem to recognize integrity almost
instinctively--and are irresistibly attracted to it.
How does one acquire it? I'm sure there's no pat
answer. I think perhaps the first step is schooling
yourself to practice total honesty in little things:
not telling the small lie when it's inconvenient to tell
the truth; not repeating that juicy bit of gossip that is
quite possibly untrue; not charging that personal phone
call to the office.
Such discipline may sound small, but when you really seek
integrity and begin to find it, it develops its own power
that sweeps you along. Finally you begin to see that
almost anything worth having has an integrity of its own
that must not be violated.
A foolproof formula for success? Yes. It's
foolproof because--regardless of fame, money, power, or
any of the conventional yardsticks--if you seek and
find integrity, you are a success.
these warm, life-affirming essays, the author
celebrates the beauty hidden in things which
usually don't merit a second glance:
wedding vows spoken against the background of
wind and waves. . . a small boy's first
glimpse of shooting stars. . . and a legacy of
love found in the dusty faded letters of an
ancestor. These are just a few of the
"endless free gifts that life
offers," if we learn to receive them.