March 27 – Integrity

“There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.” (Tom Peters)

There are few things in life harder to win back when lost than trust. And whether I am trusted is greatly influenced by my level of integrity. To me there is a difference between merely doing right things, and doing things right. It is the latter that defines my integrity.

Many times I am faced with circumstances where I can shave an edge and get something done quicker. Sometimes these are just a matter of a simple trade off. I might sacrifice a bit of accuracy for speed, or a bit of quality to get something done. These choices are part of the normal negotiations of life.

Other times the choice can be between what I can get away with versus what might come back to haunt me. This is where my personal integrity must come in to play. Whether I will be caught in doing something that isn’t 100% ethical is never a part of my decision. To me that would be a breach of integrity.

When I was in college and just beginning to date my wife, I had a 1:00am curfew. I lived at home, and my mom expected me to be there, inside the house, by 1:00am on any given night. It didn’t matter that I was 19 or 20 years old, it was her rule and I had to live by it. As is the case with anyone who has a curfew, I pushed the limits. I tried to see just how long I could stay out, and still be inside the house when the clock reached the top of the hour.

One Saturday night we had gone out on a date to see a movie. Afterwards we had gotten something to eat. When I dropped my future wife off at her dorm, it was dangerously close to the time it would take me to drive home and make the curfew. I made sure she was safely inside, and off I went.

When I was less than a mile from home, it was 12:58, and I was stopped at a red light. The street I was on was deserted. There wasn’t a car in sight ahead of me, behind me, left or right. And yet, I sat there at the light. I had been taught to obey traffic signals. I knew that if I went through the light there was a 0% chance I would be caught, and a 100% chance I would make it home on time. But, there I sat. After what seemed like an eternity (it was probably not more than 30 seconds), the light turned green and I went home. When I keyed the door it was 1:01am.

As it turned out my mom was asleep, and didn’t know that I was 1 minute late, and truth be told it wasn’t like I was going to have a stiff punishment anyway. The next morning as we were getting ready for church she asked what time I came in, and I told her I was a minute or two late. She accepted the answer and the day went on.

I had, in that example, two opportunities to sacrifice my integrity. I could have pushed through the light and been on time, and the next morning I could have lied and said I was there at or before 1:00am. But, my conscience would never have let me do that. My integrity won the day.

I am not going to sit here and say that I am perfect, or that I have always made the right choices in life. To be sure I could fill a book with the details of my mistakes and bad choices. I even could write a chapter on times when I violated my personal integrity. I regret all of my bad choices, especially those where I risked my own good reputation for expediency.

There are no minor breaches in integrity. Even if I am not caught in it, my own personal feelings about the situation are forever altered. I could not celebrate success in something if I knew that I had shaved the edges of my integrity to reach the end. To me, the end does not justify the means, if the means include sacrificing my precious integrity.

This entry was posted in Personal Reflections, Reflection 365 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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