“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” – Chinua Achebe
Failing to meet our commitments, telling a white lie, disrespecting others, failing to maintain trust in our relations, and turning a blind eye in the face of corruption are some of the signs of compromised integrity. We live in times when the principles of integrity are fast getting eroded in our society. 50% of Kenyan youths believe it doesn’t matter how one makes money as long as one does not end up in jail. 47% admire those who make money through hook or crook while 30% believe corruption is profitable. 73% of Kenyan youths are afraid to stand up for what is right for fear of retribution while 40% strongly believe that it is important to pay taxes. In a society where 35% of the youth would readily take or give a bribe, this trend is worrying.
The word integrity derives its origin from the Latin word for wholeness. Personal integrity entails adhering to high moral principles or professional standards. It is a state of being that is complete, undivided, sound or undamaged. Integrity entails maintaining high principles and keeping these standards consistent in both public and private life. Lacking personal integrity entails being in a state of incompleteness, imperfectness and imperfect.
Your response in the face of pressure or trials determine who you really are. Do you act differently around different groups, are you able to bring out your personal integrity regardless of the setting or is your integrity easily compromised by the highest bidder? Personal integrity entails being the same person in both public and private settings. Integrity entails being true to the principles of the integrity regardless of who is watching or what others might think.
In the face of social pressure, we face every day, it is sometimes easier to conform. It is easier to stand back and watch or walkway when that person is being lynched by a mob, or when you see a matatu conductor give a bribe or do nothing when your organisation or company engages in unethical practices. The stakes might not be that high or the outcomes may not be that important but the impact of conforming may, in the long run, be a major blow to your character. Personal integrity entails being very careful not to conform.
It is easier and in fact much faster to get to the top without practising integrity, but it difficult to stay at the top long without it. Individuals, relationships, marriages, companies and organisations based on questionable integrity eventually crumble. Not having integrity drains one emotionally and it is often accompanied by futile attempts to manage oneself and the surrounding world to compensate for and conceal the power leak. The personal torment that comes from living a lie not only destroys you in the long run but also harms others as well. In corrupt governments, citizens experience poor service delivery, insecurity and in the long run economic depression resulting to high cost of living and social inequalities. Similarly, corrupt companies or organisations eventually collapse, leaving employees without a livelihood. Integrity generates peace, both within you and in your surroundings. Embracing integrity makes one whole.