Are you a person of integrity?
Before you answer this question, consider these two definitions of the word integrity.
“The firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” (Merriam Webster)
“The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change.” (Cambridge)
The key characteristic of both definitions is not the presence of moral principles or a strong moral code but it is the fact that there is a firm adherence to them and that we refuse to change them.
It is this firmness that caused Moliere to write, “If everyone were clothed with integrity…the other virtues would be useless.”
It is apropos that this Moliere quote was from his play Tartuffe which was about hypocrisy of the highest order – where people exaggeratedly feign virtue, especially religious virtue. In other words, they try to fake integrity and, in doing so, prove they lack it.
Just because a person has integrity does not mean we must share their beliefs or agree with their decisions. But it does suggest that they have beliefs and they act morally to uphold them.
It is worth noting that despite their significant differences in beliefs that both Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were close friends. They were also widely seen as people of great integrity – evidenced by the overwhelming bipartisan votes they received in their confirmation to the Supreme Court and the respect afforded them upon their death.
When someone with integrity speaks, we listen because we know they will stand behind their words.
When someone acts with integrity, we know that the ends won’t have to justify their means – because both will be just.
When someone with integrity faces a difficult decision, we know they will ultimately do what is morally right.
So, “Are you a person of integrity?” is actually a trick question because it is not one that you ultimately get to answer.
Instead will be decided by those who hear what you say, watch how you act, and see what you do in life’s most difficult moments.