"Image is what people think we are. Integrity is what we really are."
So says John Maxwell in The Maxwell Daily Reader, which you can find in my Teach Suzuki Resource store (look over in the right margin). These two statements raise the important question that I will discuss today: does your image line up with your integrity?
Integrity has many facets of definition, and I am captivated by the possibilities that these various definitions suggest. In medical terms, integrity refers to a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition. Typically, the word "integrity" is defined as adhering to moral and ethical principles, exhibiting a sound moral character, and honesty. But there are other parts to the definition, and these other parts are what interest me, especially when considered alongside what Mr. Maxwell said above. Integrity also means the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished, and it is this other definition that I want to consider.
The problem with the typical definition of integrity is that people differ as to what are the correct moral and ethical principles that comprise a sound moral character. Therefore, defining integrity in this way may not serve a useful purpose for people, because we have different standards to determine what integrity looks like.
However, if we consider the integrity definition part that focuses on wholeness or consistency, then we have something worth discussing. This is what I believe that John Maxwell was referring to in his two statements that began this article. Does your image line up with your integrity?
We all have an image that we have cultivated over time to present to others. This is our public face, or our mask, as some like to call it. We like to think that we have lined up our public persona with our private one, but if we were to ask our children or our spouses or parents about it, we might be surprised to learn that we fool very few people with an image that is not consistent with our integrity.
My purpose in this article is not to address what I think a correct moral or ethical code is. Instead, I want to suggest that whatever you have determined your moral and ethical code to be should be in line with your public image.
So how do we line up our images with our integrity? There are some areas in our lives that we can consider:
- Do you treat your family members with the same courtesy, kindness, and graciousness as you do other people outside of the family?
- Do you give the same consideration to your family's needs as you do to the needs of others in your life?
- Do you treat your family members the same at all times, or do you treat them differently when you are tired, stressed, or busy?
- Are you consistent about how you work with others, or do you have moods that others have to recognize and deal with?
- Do you make choices that benefit the group rather than you?
- Do you look for ways to further someone else's effort or to help someone else improve?
- Do you give credit to others for their contributions?
- Are you open about your life or do you hide things from others?
- Do you consider doing things or looking out for others, or do you go about your own personal business?
- Are you consistent in the way you present yourself to the community as you present yourself to your family or at work?
This week, give some thought to whether your integrity and image line up. Consider how you behave in your family, work, and community settings and pinpoint any areas that do not coincide. Then work out a plan to address these deficient areas.
The next step would be to develop a personal moral or ethical code. A previous university instructor urged us to pen our own individual "bill of rights." The instructor suggested that we write a series of principles that we felt strongly about as being an important part of our character. For me, a bill of rights might include statements about honesty and loyalty, to name a few. What would your bill of rights include?
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
Psalm 78:72 (NIV)