Living With Integrity: A Definition

by Henri on June 20, 2011

The word “integrity” has meant many things to many people. In fact, there is quite a lot of confusion as what it actually means among conscientious adults. Many use it to intone that a person is trustworthy or “clean” in the way they deal with others, as in, “She can be trusted because she has integrity.”

I’m sure you are also familiar with the way engineers and technicians use the word, as in, “the integrity of the pipeline was compromised,” meaning that there is a weak spot in the pipe that might start to leak. A deeper analysis of this use of the word means that there is a structural impairment, weakness or impurity that is causing the weakness.

In my quest to look deeply at what it might mean to live with integrity, I thought I’d take a look at what the dictionary says. So here it is: the dictionary definition of integrity:

Integrity (n): Wholeness, completeness;  purity; an unimpaired state of being

“Very interesting,” I thought. And as I shared this with others around me, although they could immediately grasp the significance of this definition, had not thought of living with integrity exactly this way.  Nor had I.

“Wholeness and completeness,” when applied to human beings, would mean that, to live with integrity, we should develop ourselves to be “whole and complete.” Almost the idea of human perfection. But wait – most of us don’t believe that’s actually possible. More on this coming soon in another post devoted to this idea.

What would “purity” mean when applied to a person? Many people use the term, “He has a pure heart.” But that is not so precise in terms of developing a system to live with integrity by. So what would a “pure” person be like? Once again – there is much more to be said on this in later posts. I just want to get you thinking about it now -:).

Finally, what exactly would “an unimpaired state of being” be when applied to a person’s lifestyle? It would have to do with ridding oneself of the many “psychological and/or spiritual blocks” that people speak of. And I am sure you can imagine – this also opens up a pretty deep well to discuss, so we’ll revisit this in more detail soon as well.

I offer these thoughts today to open your mind to thinking in, perhaps, a new way about just what it might mean to “live with integrity.” I hope I have incited you to some thought and reflection. So tell us all what you’re thinking below in a comment!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry June 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Integrity in business is something that is very close to my heart. It involves how you interact with employees as well as clients and associates. In today’s world it is extremely hard to be unimpaired and pure. That is a walk that may be impossible to reach and also can be interpreted differently by each person. One’s persons perception of integrity very likely varies from another. Our religious preferences, peer pressure, family influence as well as our desires all affect our interpretations.

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Henri July 3, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I appreciate the business connection, Terry. I know you as someone who definitely walks the talk – so thanks for checking in on this little discussion.

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Robin Graham June 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I was 12 years old when the headmaster of my school in the UK gave a morning talk and mentioned the word integrity, and asked that we become men of integrity…it was a boys school. I knew this was a powerful word, and that moment has never left me. In growing up and growing older I have sought to keep that word in my heart and my mind to measure myself. First I needed to research what it meant…. and I have always appreciated re-reading definitions and studying lives lived with integrity; preparing myself for the moments when my integrity might be challenged.
I would like to suggest that living a life filled with integrity affords one “peace of mind”

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Henri July 3, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I think many, if not most, of us were entreated to live with integrity as we grew. And most of us have needed to research exactly what integrity means, just as you did. It is mye sincere hope that this blog will help us all get clearer on the entire enterprise of living this way.

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Tyler Hendricks June 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Mike Mickler uses the term integrity a lot in discussion UTS functioning. In that context, having integrity means that the school does what its literature (catalogue, PR, program mission statements) say that it does. These documents are an implicit contract with the public, and integrity means that word and deed are the same. That means, to me, wholeness and oneness.

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Henri June 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Excellent point. The issue here is how an individual has this same integrity: words and deeds are the same.

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Robin Graham June 29, 2011 at 10:55 am

Henri, in another thread you use mind/body unity as synonymous with integrity. This is always a challenging point when it concerns virtue. There are plenty of people whose mind and body are united, but I would not call them virtuous. You use a similar synonym above – word and deed . It has always struck me that what makes a human being “human” is also where his/her mind is focused. Otherwise a thief could have integrity …. mind body unity and he said he would rib the bank and he did.
Hitler wrote Mein Kampf and he clearly did what he said……. but does that make him a man of integrity?
I have repeatedly taken issue with spiritual teachers who use mind/body unity as being the standard for “wholeness” or “completeness.” Clearly ( to me) it depends where your mind “is at”. Maybe the spiritual teachers were assuming that the mind is centered on ” the good”. Well, I have a a bridge in Brooklyn………
Lets take this further

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Henri June 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Great points, Robin – thanks for taking the time to comment.

Indeed, integrity is not the same as virtue. In future posts (the content on this blog comes from a seminar I wrote some years ago and continue to deliver regularly, and a book forthcoming -:) ), I will address this issue. One’s mind must be connected to “True Principles” before mind body unity can create a virtuous life.

More soon!

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