Saturday, June 28, 2008

Integrity: what does it look like?

A local religious columnist, the Rev. Anthony Robinson, has written today in the Seattle P.I. that he thinks integrity is more valuable than compassion; he notes that he disagrees with the Dalai Lama in this regard but he makes a good point. This may be a matter of semantics, for surely integrity and compassion work together to make human life most humane.

Rev. Robinson delineates what he see as the marks of integrity; he's got a Top Ten that is quite substantive. But what does each quality say about a person? Here is his list, which I've paraphrased and added to. Italics are mine. See what you think.

1. What you see is what you get. A person of integrity doesn't say one thing and do another.

2. S/He honors commitments and keeps promises. And that would include not making promises or commitments one doesn't want to keep.

3. S/He is truthful. The person of integrity doesn't lie or embroider the truth to make it more dramatic or less painful.

4. S/He is consistent. You can count on this person to be reliable in her/his behavior.

5. S/He takes responsibility for her/his mistakes. This person doesn't weasel out on blame and s/he makes amends when s/he hurts someone.

6. S/He doesn't whine when things go wrong. This person doesn't blame others or make excuses for the problems s/he faces.

7. S/He cares about the work, the mission, the product, and a job well done. This person isn't in it for the money or the recognition or the advancement but for the satisfaction of having done it well.

8. S/He is skeptical of simple answers to complex problems. The person of integrity looks below the surface of a problem to find its source and avoids stopgap measures as much as possible, preferring to deal with a problem close to its source.

9. S/He minds her/his own business. This person focuses on her/his own work and avoids getting drawn into the responsibilities of another.

10. S/He knows it's not possible to go through life without making mistakes or hurting others inadvertently. This person is able to forgive him/herself for mistakes and to extend that forgiveness to others, giving encouragement rather than blame.

I don't know about you, but I see a lot of compassion weaving in and out of these characteristics of a person of integrity. Do you mind if I invent the word "integritous"? I think we need it.


Christina Martin said...

I agree with you about seeing compassion in this description of integrity. I also think that even where the definition of integrity doesn't "overlap" with compassion, it often tends to lead to it. It certainly does not have to be an "either/or" proposition. And integrity dictates that the person who talks compassionately follow through in their personal actions.

ms. kitty said...

What a great observation, Christina, thanks!

Robin Edgar said...

Well I think that you can probably guess what I have to say about the integrity, or lack thereof. . . of too many of the U*Us that I know, especially those in positions of responsibility when it comes to responding to various U*U injustices and abuses with some genuine justice, equity and compassion.

When you think that you have "invented" a word it pays to Google it. More often than not you will discover that someone else coined it before you. In any case I am not sure how synthesizing the words 'integrity' and 'compassion' leads to the word 'integritous'. U*Us certainly could *use* more integrity and compassion though. To paraphrase Christina, "Integrity dictates that the people who talk about justice, equity and compassion in human relations follow through in their personal actions." The same principles apply to the rest of the "talk" of the Seven Principles". I and other people who have been harmed by U*Us are waiting for U*Us to show some integrity and start actually walking their so far remarkably insincere and empty "talk".

ms. kitty said...

Thanks for the idea, Robin. I did google "integritous" and found it at characterized by integrity.

Mile High Pixie said...

I'm not sure I can add much to the comments so far, but it's certainly a relevant topic, especially in an election year. Perhaps it helps to think of compassion as the "talk" and integrity as the "walk." Or, if we want to get even more into semantics, we could say that compassion is the noun and integrity should be more of a verb. Regardless of one's personal or political stripe, having integrity would make things a lot simpler for everyone, if we knew what we were getting whenever we dealt with people. Or at least one would have to pipe down about what they believed if they knew they couldn't back it up with their actions. Although, I would say most folks believe integrity is a positive trait. So would it be positive if someone just said "I'm a racist" or "I'm a homophobe" and then lived out those beliefs in their actions? Technically, they have integrity, but are they decent people?

Or am I muddying the waters a bit unnecessarily?

ms. kitty said...

Good point, Pixie. It seems that compassion without integrity is lacking something and so is integrity without compassion.

kim said...

As someone once said (I think it was Aldous Huxley), "Nothing short of everything will really do."

wayful said...

When I hear someone say that he disagrees with the Dalai Lama it gives me pause. This statement immediately places the one who disagrees on a high pedestal of his own making. One of Buddhism's main points of study is the delusions created by the ego. This reminds me of the "Book of Virtues" and its writer.