The Meaning of Integrity: The Complete Human
The only problem with this definition is that I am making the assumption that wholeness in humans involves goodness as well. This argument plays out pretty well, however, when we realize that acting on positive values generally leads to health and happiness.
- Eating good food makes you healthy.
- Being kind to others leads to larger support networks and social well-being.
- Taking care of your body lets you enjoy life more.
- Honesty leads to respect.
- Confidence breeds success.
Interestingly, integrity is itself a virtue by this model. An article on Psychology Today about integrity on the workplace points out that failing to act in accordance with our beliefs causes anxiety and discomfort which over the long run can lead to insomnia, anxiety disorders, and overeating. This phenomenon is called cognitive dissonance. It is simply psychological discomfort caused by failing to act as you think you ought.
Even if you are being compelled by circumstances beyond your control and have no choice, you will still feel the dissonance. Attempts to rationalize the behavior or justify it are motivated by a desire to relieve the dissonance. The existence of cognitive dissonance suggests that integrity is an integral part of our psychological and personal well-being.
Thus, integrity is itself part of a complete, whole, human being, while at the same time enabling that wholeness.
The Highest Virtue
This is why I believe integrity is such an important virtue. Not only is it valuable in and of itself, it is also what allows us to realize all of our other virtues in our daily lives. Integrity manifests as an insistence on holding to one's moral code, despite circumstances or outside pressures.
It is related to discipline, in that integrity requires discipline.
Additionally, integrity is not something you acquire and never deal with again. It is an ongoing practice. Continued consistency in action leads to increased integrity. And as you develop more and more integrity, your character becomes more and more solid and resilient, making it even easier to practice continued integrity. It is a self-perpetuating cycle.
I hope this post helps clarify what I mean by integrity, and why I feel it is so important to develop. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Post to comments.