Integrity. In our household we have a thing with words. We believe that words have meaning. And if you are going to throw around words like Integrity, you best know what they mean. So what exactly does Integrity mean...
Webster's online dictionary defines integrity as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. And there inlies the rub. While we can all probably agree that honesty is pretty clearly attained, how sure are you that your moral compass points in the same direction as everyone else you know? Well, I assure you that for me, I cannot make that assessment. And I am ok with that. What I am not ok with is what appears to be the decline of Integrity.
I believe that there are two underlying factors that are causing the decline of integrity. And I think we can do something about it. First, we have lost truth. Or the ability to find and assess what is true. In the era of terms like fake news and unbridled bias it is nearly impossible anymore to know what is true. I am not sure which dynamic has created the most trouble in this area, the media and their need for viewers, aka advertising dollars, or the need for us to support our own biases.
There's an old saying that goes something like this:
Well, if we are only allowing ourselves to hear and read and interact with those that support our ideologies and bias then how are we to ever hear both sides of the story? Without two sides there won't be a middle anymore. And many of us are certainly not comfortable getting uncomfortable and hearing what the other guy has to say. In order to shift our culture back to one that honors the truth, and therefore integrity, we must begin having the hard conversations and allowing, almost demanding, that we get all sides of the story first. Then, as Brené Brown tells us, we must speak truth to bullshit. And be civil.
Secondly, I would suggest that in general we have lost our ability to hold ourselves accountable. We are great at holding others accountable. Telling them what to do, where they went wrong, suggesting how they could do it right, or better. In fact, I think that's why twitter exists. People love to call others out and take their inventory for them. But how often are we taking a hard look in the mirror and holding ourselves accountable? In my book, Choose Different, I challenge everyone to adopt Radical Accountability. Before challenging others to manage their affairs, make sure yours are in order as well.
So what now? How do we navigate back to a culture of Integrity? Awareness. Raise your awareness of the dialogue you are engaging with. And if it is only supportive of your bias, then you need to expand your inputs. Buddhists refer to this as beginners mind; the ability to put aside the things we think we know to be true so that we may hear the information with open minds and open hearts. And find clarity. In fact, you may need to do this first. Our moral compass cannot guide us true if we do not have clarity in our values and the things we hold most true. I can not be of integrity if I am bouncing from cause to cause or argument after argument defending things or fighting for whatever the next injustice is without considering first how the cause may, or may not, align with my true beliefs.
And Radical Accountability. Once you get clear and raise your awareness - hold yourself accountable. Alex Sheen, the Founder of because I said I would, said it mush better than I could. In his TED talk he reminds us that
And if you want to show up, it starts with radical accountability. Do the things you say you are going to do. Do the things that align with your moral fabric and support those around you to do the same. This is how we get integrity back and it is what we need to do to shift humanity. I am dedicated to doing this work. I hope you will be too.