A Transparent Mirror

Integrity and Honesty

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice to uphold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards.
It’s a quality every man worth his salt aspires to. It encompasses many of the best and most admirable traits in a man: honesty, uprightness, trustworthiness, fairness, loyalty, and the courage to keep one’s word and one’s promises, regardless of the consequences. The word integrity derives from the Latin for “wholeness” and it denotes a man who has successfully integrated all good virtues – who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching.
Do not confuse integrity with honesty. You can be the most honest person in the world – saying things as they are – and still not have the integrity to be believable. And although if you look at the dictionary, you’ll find that integrity means soundness of moral character, as well as honesty – there’s more to integrity than honesty alone.

Honesty is just not lying. Your boss asks if you did something- you tell the truth. The difference between that and integrity is that you can be honest for the wrong reason. Like returning someone’s lost wallet because you think they’ll give you a reward. Integrity is the basing of one’s actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. Depth of principles and adherence of each level to the next are key determining factors. One is said to have integrity to the extent that everything he does and believes is based on the same core set of values. If you have integrity, you do the right thing for the right reason.
Integrity is honesty with moral and ethics compounded on top. Honesty is telling the truth. Integrity is practicing what you preach.

Integrity and momentary success

If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be integrity, Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.

We live in a world where integrity isn’t talked about nearly enough. We live in a world where “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable school of thought for far too many. Sales people overpromise and under deliver, all in the name of making their quota for the month. Applicants exaggerate in job interviews because they desperately need a job. CEOs overstate their projected earnings because they don’t want the board of directors to replace them.  Entrepreneurs overstate their pro formas because they want the highest valuation possible from an investor. Investors understate a company’s value in order to negotiate a lower valuation in a deal. Customer service representatives cover up a mistake they made because they are afraid the client will leave them. Employees call in “sick” because they don’t have any more paid time off when they actually just need to get their Christmas shopping done. The list could go on and on, and in each case the person committing the act of dishonesty told themselves they had a perfectly valid reason why the end result justified their lack of integrity.

It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of morality. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification in the moment but it will never last. I can think of several examples of people without integrity who are successful and who win without ever getting caught, which creates a false perception of the path to success that one should follow. After all, each person in the examples above could have gained the result they wanted in the moment, but unfortunately, that momentary result comes at an incredibly high price with far reaching consequences.  That person has lost their ability to be trusted as a person of integrity, which is the most valuable quality anyone can have in their life. Profit in dollars or power is temporary, but profit in a network of people who trust you as a person of integrity is forever.

Why Integrity Is Never Easy?

It’s not that simple, for two reasons: First is the innate human ability to rationalize behavior. For example, if you ask high school students whether or not it is right to cheat, most will say that cheating is wrong. Yet research suggests that as many as 95% of such students admit to having engaged in some form of cheating. Most of the time, this involves a specific incident where the students had to make a choice. In hindsight, the students justify the choice as “not really cheating,” “no big deal,” or something that “everyone else does.” In other words, they rationalize their situational behavior, and this way they can still consider themselves to be honest.

And that leads to the second reason why integrity is so difficult: Everyone defines integrity differently. Falsifying information to one person might be considered an acceptable business practice to another. This is further exacerbated by differences in culture — for example in some business cultures people are expected to openly do favors for each other, while in other cultures those favors would be considered bribes.

The power of rationalization and the difficulties of definition reveal integrity as a subject that is neither easy nor simple. That’s why solely relying on compliance functions, policies, rules, and audits — the integrity police — is usually inadequate. These mechanisms guard against gross and clearly illegal violations of integrity standards, but they do not deal with the integrity choices that we face every day. These choices require personal judgment.

What Strengthens and Weakens Our Integrity?

Why Small Choices Count?

Once you commit one dishonest act, your moral standards loosen, your self-perception as an honest person gets a little hazier, your ability to rationalize goes up, and your fudge factor margin increases. Where you draw the line between ethical and unethical, honest and dishonest, moves outward. From his research, Professor Ariely has found that committing a dishonest act in one area of your life not only leads to more dishonesty in that one area, but ends up corrupting other areas of your life as well. “A single act of dishonesty,” he argues, “can change a person’s behavior from that point onward.”

What this means is that if you want to maintain your integrity, the best thing you can do is to never take that first dishonest step. No matter how small and inconsequential a choice may seem at the time, it may start you down a path that tarnishes your moral compass, leads you to commit more serious misdeeds, and causes you to compromise your fundamental principles.

Closing the Gap Between Our Actions and Their Consequences

We must always remember that we’re all experts in creating rationalizations for dishonest behavior when that behavior serves our own interests. And the greater the distance there is between an immoral act and its consequences, the easier these rationalizations become to generate. We’re so adept at cloaking our dishonest deeds in the disguise of acceptability that we may not even recognize them for what they are ourselves, and will sometimes fight tooth and nail to defend our justifications.

Thus living with integrity requires frank and sincere self-examination and self-awareness. What are your true motivations and intentions? What are the consequences of your actions and whom will they affect? Strengthening your mental game and building this kind of awareness isn’t easy. It involves tuning into that little nagging voice in your mind that says, “Hold on a minute, this isn’t quite right.” Instead of ignoring it, write down what that voice says in a pocket notebook. Maybe seeing it in words makes it more real and shortens that distance between action and consequence. Or consider partnering up with a friend or significant other who you can send a text to when you feel that twinge of guilt coming on about something. To voice it to another person certainly makes it more real.

Winning the mental battle is the first step in being a man with great integrity. You haven’t won yet, and probably never will completely, but you make progress by not letting the smallest misdeed be rationalized

How to Stop the Spread of the Immorality Virus?

There is a popular viewpoint these days that ridicules the idea that one individual’s personal decisions and behavior could possibly have an effect on the behavior of others. But what the scientific research on the subject tells us is that it is in fact ridiculous not to realize that each person’s actions have an ever-so-subtle ripple effect that influences others and the culture at large. We cannot see it with our eyes, or in real time, and of course no one is consciously aware of how these ripples are affecting them, It all happens at the level of the subconscious. This should surely give us pause and cause us to reflect on own behavior. What signals are you sending out each day? Are you a man whose example is making this world better…or worse?

Integrity in various beliefs

In Judaism: Honesty and integrity are main values in Judaism. The obvious is of course “You shall not steal” in the Ten Commandments”, as well as “You shall not give a false testimony” found in the same verse. (Exodus 20: 12).
But moral dishonesty is also strongly condemned by Judaism. The Hebrew expressions for that kind of dishonesty is Gnevat Daat , literally “stealing of the mind”, and Hon’aat Dvarim , which can be translated as deceit, cheating.
You will find many examples of this kind of prohibited conduct in the Talmud, Rambam, Shulkhan Arukh as well as elsewhere.
The Shulkhan Arukh Hoshen Mishpat 228, paragraph 1 states: “Moral dishonesty is worse than theft because you cannot evaluate it”.
Maimonides summarizes this beautifully in Hilkot Deot 2:6:
“It is forbidden to say one thing with your mouth and to have another thing in your heart”. 

In Christianity: In the Old Testament part of the Bible, most of the versescontain the
word integrity. It is important that we live by the word of God and being honest is one of the most important
things to follow.

Do not fret or despair when others come against you (and they will), when you stand up for truth, or when you keep your word; because of your integrity, you will be doing the right thing and you will be rewarded (1 Kings 9:4-5, Nehemiah 7:2, Psalm 41:11-12).

Proverbs 28:18 – “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who
is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.

In Islam:
Morality occupies one of the greatest positions in Islam, so great that the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) said, “I have only been sent to perfect moral integrity.” [Ahmad, Malik, Bazaar, Haithami and Ibn `Abd al Barr authenticated it. From Abu Hurairah.]. As if he (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) restricted the duty with which he was commissioned to this matter alone…

Abdullah b. Mas’ud reported: Prophet Muhammad PBUH said, “Truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man will keep speaking the truth and striving to speak the truth until he will be recorded with Allāh as a siddeeq (speaker of the truth). Lying leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to Hell fire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allāh as a liar.”  [Agreed upon].

Integrity in Islam has to do with the consistency of the individual with his or her innate purpose; the totality of the individual’s life being kept in alignment with their intrinsic function. It is not merely the dogmatism of adherence to a relatively arbitrary code of conduct and behavior, but the preservation of the individual’s purity and authenticity. Whereas the philosophical definition of integrity would take violation of a given code of ethics as what invalidates one’s integrity; in Islam, the violation of integrity constitutes an alienation from one’s nature with drastic and profound consequences that ultimately invalidate one’s very life.

A Transparent Mirror

Having integrity is like being a transparent mirror to your ethics and standards , Meaning you have nothing to hide , Not doing anything you would lie when asked about it later, If each individual man committed to living a higher standard of integrity, if he strove not to compromise that integrity in even small ways, and set an example that inspired others to do likewise, our homes, neighborhoods, and nation would slowly become better places for all. Our world will never be perfect – either individually or societally – but why not do whatever you can, wherever you are, to make it a better place now and for those coming after us?



Riyadh as-Saliheen Series | Hadith 54 – Truthfulness








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