Integrity isn’t about morality or ethics. Integrity is about being whole. Sound. Complete. Unbroken.
If we are dealing with the structural integrity of a piece of steel, we are talking about it’s state of being. Whether is can support a certain load. It’s not good or bad. It’s just true or not true. Will this steel, or won’t it, do the thing we want it to do. Can we count on it.
Integrity is like that for human beings, except it is rooted in our word. Will we, or won’t we, do the thing that we say will will do. Can we be counted on.
Morality and ethics has to do with desirable vs. undesirable behavior, based on the standards of a culture or subculture.
I have spent most of my life making no distinction between the concept of integrity, morality, and ethics. Integrity is something I have even used interchangeably with “moral” and “ethical.” I might say “That guy has no integrity” when what I may actually mean is “That guy is unethical” or “That guy is immoral.”
Consider Tony Soprano. Is he moral? His behavior violates the the normative standards of right and wrong in society. He murders people. He is immoral.
Is he ethical? The answer to that is circumstantial. We need to consider the set of values that exist within the subcultures he is a part of, and consider his behavior in light of the ethics of those circumstances.
Consider organized crime. The cardinal rule if you ever get pinched: You always keep your mouth shut, and never rat on a friend. Tony Soprano does not betray “the family.” He is ethical.
Does he have integrity? That has entirely to do with whether or not he keeps and honors his word. When it comes to marriage, Tony Soprano is unfaithful to his wife. He violates his word to be faithful. There may be other areas Tony is behaving in integrity, where is can be counted on to keep and honor his word. But he is out of integrity in marriage.
This distinction has lead me to examine which areas of my life I can be counted on to keep or honor my word, and where I have the most difficulty. Where would people say they can count on me to do exactly what I say, when I say I will do it, and where would people say I can’t be counted on?
Doing an inquiry into the presence or lack of integrity in various places in our lives can lead us to discover things we didn’t know about ourselves, and gives us power to change how we are occurring for other people in our lives.
This distinction around integrity, and how integrity impacts every dimension of my life, business and relationships, has been transformative in my life. It all started with reading the article linked below. I will continue to blog about it over the coming year, but if you want to dig into it for yourself, download it for free (like, really free... no opt in, nothing) at the link below.