The dictionary defines the word integrity as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness and the state of being whole and undivided.
When I think of that word, I quickly have images of men and women from my past who have exemplified this definition. I bet if you were asked to name a couple of folks, you could no doubt name a few names.
Maybe it was a school teacher. Or perhaps it was a pastor, a scout leader, a friend's father or mother. HECK! Maybe it was your own parents or siblings or even all the above. The truth is, there is probably someone in your life who has always stood when no one else was standing, walked when others stopped, was willing to take the blame for some mistake, even when nobody would have known if they had kept quiet. Why did they do it? Because they have integrity!
On a more practical level, integrity could be something as simple as walking your shopping cart back into the grocery store instead of parking it between parking spaces. Or maybe it's returning that penny on the ground to someone you just saw drop it from their pocket. While these may sound trivial to you, sometimes it's the little things in life that best demonstrate integrity.
Now, don't get me wrong. It can be inconvenient, frustrating or downright infuriating sometimes to simply do the right thing. And, frankly, it's hard sometime to walk in integrity. It takes courage, backbone, the willingness to endure shame. I mean, come on. Wouldn't it be simpler to just fit in the crowd. Why be different? You don't have to be a hero.
But in that lies part of the answer. You don't have to be a hero. But people who walk in integrity really are heroes. They've been taught and have developed the courage to stand, even when it hurts. They've learned that the short cuts in life that some take really don't pay off in the end. Going the extra mile, doing the right thing, really does have dividends.
The challenge each of us have is, what are you going to do the next time you have the opportunity to simply fit in and do the wrong thing like a lot of other people in your group may be doing? Are you going to cave in or are you going to stand strong?
One way of beginning your walk on integrity's road is to study the people you believe already walk in integrity with their decisions, their behavior, or how they treat people. Ask them questions. How did they learn to walk in integrity? Whose steps did they follow in?
Then learn to ask yourself questions. The best question you can ask yourself when faced with an upcoming circumstance that gives you the opportunity to exercise integrity is this: How will my decision affect the "future me"? Further, will the decision I make in the next couple seconds lead someone to think of me in a few years as one of those people who walked in integrity in their lives? Think about it!