Choosing Integrity

 “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of the transgressors shall destroy them.” Proverbs 11.3 KJV

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI like that Proverb, what about you? Though I am not big on the Bible, now and then I find a nugget I like, that is one of them.

Integrity, it does seem to be in short supply these days, whether we look at the world of business, the government or even at our personal lives. Have we all fallen short, forgotten what it means to live a life that is not just expedient, but instead is real and as the quote says, ‘upright’. I wonder, what does it mean to have integrity, to live with courage and by the courage of conviction.

I will admit, here and certainly, to myself, I have fallen short in the past. Fallen short out of fear. Fallen short because I thought I was protecting another. Fallen short because I was simply tired of fighting for my place. Fallen short because I didn’t understand what it meant to do otherwise.

I suspect we all fall short. I would also guess, those of us conscious enough to self-examine regret our fall from grace, even when the only person who knows is ourselves.

What is the test?

Do we fall short when we are afraid and thus fail to live up to our potential? Alternatively, is the real answer we simply choose expediency over integrity as the easy way through life, consequences be damned.

“Greatness lives on the edge of destruction”. Will Smith, Oprah show at 38.04 minutes

I think we fall short for a variety of reasons, some perhaps good reasons and others always terrible reasons. No matter the reason, if we have any self-awareness, we will always beat the hell out of ourselves afterwards. Perhaps we look back over our life and pinpoint those times where we choose convenience over a more difficult path, does this make us a bad person or simply average, normal. When we aspire to be more than we are, should we be held back by our past, by the stumbles we have taken?

My personal experience is fear is the biggest diversion. Fear takes many forms and places many stones in the path. Stumbling over those stones creates even greater fear, now I have stumbled; now I have lost my path and Wikimedia Imagemy place. Sometimes it is not enough to be sorry, in falling you take others with you. Sometimes losing futures, losing love and breaking dreams.

The two quotes are quite different, one says transgressors shall be destroyed, the other says we must get to the edge to be great. I think there is truth in both, to find our truth we must face down our fears and find our core, perhaps even to the edge of destruction. Once there though, once we are sure of ourselves and whole in our values, we must stop living by other people’s rules, stop fearing judgment and loss; stop choosing expediency over a life of integrity.

I think for any one of us to choose integrity all the time, we must first examine our fears, our losses and dreams. What does it mean to stand up to the crowd, to social pressure or even to a loved one’s demands? What does it mean to say “no, I will not do that”, say that or act in that manner simply to satisfy your wants when it is wrong in my heart? What does it mean to say to a boss “no”, what you are doing will cause harm to a client or is inappropriate. When we choose these things knowing it might cost us friends, loved ones or income, can we still choose? That I think is the core of both quotes is the loss better than the alternative; that I think is the choice we have to make.

We all fall short sometimes. I have certainly fallen short in my past and certainly regret those falls from grace. The odd thing is, I have also stood up and chosen the path of integrity, chosen to do the right thing, I paid for it. Now I know there is a price to pay for a fall and a price to pay for standing up. The difference is the price to pay for the fall is much higher, it is one you extract every day in self-recrimination.

I suspect many people struggle with some of these ideas. Today the world is full of so many examples of people who choose to stumble and stay down, I find it disheartening. Perhaps if more of us considered philosophically what it means to question our motives and apply integrity to our decisions and choices we would have a better world.

I leave you with my playlist for this one, it is how I was feeling as I wrote.

Oprah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N3vFeR4g9M

Counting Crows, Talks to Angels: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_5U0M9ErGA

Hootie and the Blowfish, Let her Cry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aVHLL5egRY

Tracy Chapman, One Reason: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3d3iWPXvErQ

Note: If you haven’t seen me visiting lately I have been sick since just before the new year. It has laid me low and I am only now getting over a beastly cold / infection. I will be back to visiting soon, hopefully I will stay out of bed long enough today to read and comment. It isn’t you it is me! 

Uncivil Discourse

The other day I was called a “Godless Liberal” during a political debate; I pondered this before I responded. I understood my opponent was rather angry, furious if truth were told. If we had been speaking face-to-face, I suspect the ‘Godless Liberal’ would have been accompanied with finger pointing and looked something like this:

ou.org

GODLESS LIBERAL !

That said and his point made, he viewed me as ‘outside’ and thus not worthy of anything approaching civil discourse.

This entire exchange got me thinking about the state of our nation, not from a political standpoint, not from what we see in media but, from how we speak to one another. It got me thinking, outside of what boundary was I that this complete faceless stranger felt comfortable denigrating me in the most sexist terms all the while holding himself up as Christian, intellectually and morally superior?

Before I go on, by the way my response was “Yes, but you will never understand the nuance.”

Morals, Ethics, Principles, Values, Scruples, Integrity

Do these words have real meanings anymore? Can we say with certainty all societies have something akin to moral structures all members willingly agree with and abide by? When my little friend called me a Godless Liberal, what did he really mean? Did he understand what he meant or was he just parroting others mindlessly, just to have something to say because he was unable to debate the issue.

The first half of this year has been one of change for me; some of this change has been intentional and thus far challenging. Without going into detail, I have changed my mode of employment, at least for now. I have of course begun to expose deeply buried secrets. Finally, it is a Presidential election year; I admit it I love this season. I am a bit of wonk with a passion for a good debate especially if I can also dig into some research and history. This exchange though, this Godless Liberal along with other name calling got me thinking about how we have changed in our interpersonal relationships, how we have changed in our communication manners.

The question of Godliness and Godlessness, religious affiliation, worship both what and how, whether we recognize them or not, have been taking center stage in our public life for decades now. Though we are enjoined from doing so by our laws, even by our Constitution and by implication by our Bill of Rights, we judge each other by a set of Principles. Do we truly all agree to and apply the same rigorousness to our Morals, Ethics and Principles? Do we all truly walk the walk each and every day? One key to answering these questions is, are they all one and the same thing, different aspects but in fact the same thing. Personally, I look at that list and think they are not the same; they are instead building blocks.

I have been thinking about this all week.  This is what I have ultimately come up with, tell me what you think and how you would respond to the scenarios, I have posed.

Morals: Primarily derived from religious thinking, all societies have basic frameworks that seem to be consistent though some are more deranged than others in their application of the rules.

  • Don’t be dishonest (Lie, Cheat, Steal)
  • Don’t be promiscuous and be faithful in your marriage (don’t covet either)
  • Don’t murder (killing might be okay for the right reason)
  • Be compassionate to those weaker than yourself (feed the hungry, care for the sick and aged)

Ethics: Primarily defined for businesses to operate in the marketplace, organizations establish these to clarify the rules and ensure everyone knows them. Personally, I think in many cases Business Ethics are the organizations smoke screen but that is just me. I have seen these few from past employers they have rarely been adhered to when they got in the way of profit.

  • Don’t pay bribes (Influence peddling)
  • Respect for individuals (Civil and Human Rights)
  • Respect for local culture
  • Respect for environment
  • Deliver profit to shareholders

Principles, Values, Scruples & Integrity: I have combined these because they are all personal in my mind. We develop personal and interpersonal relationships within society and with individuals, how we interact is based on our own evolution. Despite what some would have us believe we are not born Principled or with Integrity. When we come into the world, we are nothing more than empty vessels waiting to be filled.

So what are these amorphous ideals some of us develop over time and where do they come from?

Scenario 1:

Gladys has been part of a workplace Lottery pool for five-years.   Each week she and ten others put $1 into the pool and purchase a PowerBall ticket with the intent of splitting the proceeds should they win. Gladys collects the money and buys ten tickets for the pool, this week she also buys a ticket for herself with $1. Well, well one of the tickets wins the PowerBall, if Gladys is principled what will she do?

Scenario 2:

Pontdre is a company with well-documented business ethics that all new employees are required to read and sign their agreement too. George developed a new product with the potential of huge profits but it will require that Pontdre actively petition for a change to current government policies affecting the livelihood of another industry or group and could also cause significant negative ecological effects on nearby towns. How does Pontdre resolve this?

I am not going to provide a scenario for Morals; we can all come up with these. I will leave you with this though; I essentially filtered the 10 Commandments down to three (similar to George Carlin) and then added one of my own. Most religions agree with these as foundational notwithstanding the simpler language I used. I find myself in a quandary as I consider the issue of Morals, Ethics, Principles, Values, Scruples and Integrity –

Circling back to the idea of GODLESS LIBERAL and my answer of YES

If I read my 4 Commandments, I walk the walk every day. Thus, I have Morals.

If I read my Ethics, as a businessperson who has worked in a variety of roles for Fortune 100 companies and as an Independent Business Owner; I walk the walk and talk the talk. In fact, I have been trouble for doing so in the past.

If I read my definitions and scenarios for the last group, I know my answers and believe I am a person of Integrity, a Principled person.

Godless, perhaps if I apply the definition as society defines it this is true; I am not religious only spiritual.

Liberal, indeed I have been and am now a Progressive to the Left of Center Liberal in most things.

I wonder though, does this mean there is something wrong that makes me deserving of the other name-calling? I wonder how we get the name-calling toned down.

Stoning, burning at the stake, dunking have all been outlawed in the US of A for many years now; with Godless Liberal and very public Slut Walking making a comeback, I have to wonder what is next?

Warning: George Carlin can be a bit offensive. Don’t watch if you are easily offended by language or for that matter by his view of religion.

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