Important Human Attributes
The dictionary defines integrity as “firm adherence to a code of moral or artistic values.” While societal mores are based on a shared societal ethic, integrity refers to an individual criterion for values. One aspect of integrity is being true to your values.
The second aspect of integrity is keeping your commitments – following through on promises and doing what you say you will do and doing it on time. This follows from the second definition of integrity, which is the state of “being whole or undivided.” A common usage of this aspect of integrity the notion of “structural integrity.” Human beings also have issues with “structural integrity,” though most of us are unaware of this. Just as cracks in the structure of a building compromise its integrity or wholeness, cracks in our integrity keep us from operating at full power. For example, when people do not attend the party, visit the hospital, return the call, or hand in the report on time, many of us avoid the person to whom we made the commitment. But this means something is incomplete between us and we cannot operate freely and with full power – we cannot “be ourselves” – with that person until we address the incomplete issue. Sometimes it’s as simple as acknowledging the missed commitment and recommitting to a new deadline. Sometimes it requires declaring an end to the commitment (an unfinished project, a dying relationship) to achieve closure. Once we take either path, there’s a sense of freedom because we’ve returned the self to a state of completeness – a state of integrity.
As difficult as it is sometimes to keep our commitments to other people, it’s often harder to keep our commitments to ourselves. This is because while family, friends, and coworkers will typically hold us accountable for our public commitments, individuals only have themselves to report to regarding internal commitments. When push comes to shove over last week’s promises, many of us find that we are willing to disappoint ourselves before we disappoint others. So often the things we say are most important – our personal goals – are the things that get pushed off to next week.
“Integrity includes but goes beyond honesty. Honesty is telling the truth — in other words, conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words — in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.” (Stephen Covey)
The dictionary defines responsibility “a moral, legal, or mental responsibility.” The issue of responsibility often surfaces after something has gone wrong. Then people want to know who will be held “responsible.” While this aspect of accountability can be important, the empowering side of responsibility comes in advance - when we each hold ourselves responsible for what happens to us.
Taking responsibility for your life means declaring that you are responsible for everything you do, everything you say, everything you have, and everything that happens to you. Some will say that this isn’t really true – there are the actions of others and outside influences. But it’s also not literally “true” that you are not responsibility for things. This view is a state of mind that places the power to influence events with you rather than with someone or something else.
In addition to empowering yourself, there are two very pleasant side effects to acting as though you are 100% responsible for everything that happens to you. The first is that you will not blame others for your circumstances. You will notice that the people we most respect in life typically do not blame others for things that happen to them. Second, you will greatly reduce the amount of complaining that you do. Most people waste a lot of time complaining – about other people, about traffic, about the government, about the media, and even about the weather. But again, you’ll notice that the people we most respect do a lot less complaining than most of us. Complaining is a very weak form of communication and taking responsibility of everything that happens to you means that you’ll have a lot less to complain about.
Taking personal responsibility also implies that you will reduce the number of complaints that you have about yourself – from your weight and your looks to your habits and your accomplishments. Many of us believe that we are being tough on ourselves when they find fault with their behavior. But this accomplishes nothing. Taking responsibility does not require that we beat ourselves up, but simply that we acknowledge how things are, then make and keep commitments that will alter the things we which to change in life.
“Responsibility starts with saying you are cause in the matter. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame, or guilt. In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. There is simply what’s so, and your stand. Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the point of view that you are the generator of what you do, what you have, and what you are. That is not “the truth.” It is a place to stand. No one can make you responsible, nor can you impose responsibility on another. It is a grace you give yourself – an empowering context that leaves you with a say in the matter of life.” (Landmark Education)