We often hear the word “Integrity.” It has a positive connotation. We like to think we have it and we do not like to be thought of as not having it. Yet, few of us could really define integrity, or if we do have a definition it may be very different from another’s definition. For some, integrity relates to morality; for others to our ethical code; for others still it is about being honest under all circumstances; for others the word is value laden and relates to what we prefer or do not prefer.
I would like to provide a whole other definition of integrity. This definition comes from Landmark Education, and is a more real world, practical definition of integrity. It is a definition that is directly related to how effective we are in having peace and clarity and in achieving the results we seek for a fulfilled life.
The working definition for integrity is Work-ability. How workable is our life; is our life working for us? If any part of our life is not working, if it is ineffective or if there is a loss of confidence or power or a feeling of going nowhere, then our life in that aspect is not workable. To become clearer about what is meant by work ability, we might think of any area of our life where we feel whole and complete and confident, where things are going well. Compare that aspect of life with any other where things are not going well, where there is a lack confidence, a feeling of powerlessness or helplessness or discouragement. That aspect of our life is not workable.
This definition of work ability can apply to relationships, work situations, our physical health, our eating habits or exercise regime or even how we use our spare time. We can ask in each of these areas is life workable?
So what does work ability have to do with integrity? In fact, the two are directly related. This is because in order to have our life be workable, in order for our life to function in the way we want, we must have integrity in that aspect, or know how to restore integrity where it is not present. When integrity is present, life works well.
To restore integrity where it is not present we must look to the specific area where we are without integrity and find what is missing. It may mean an apology to another person; it may mean following through on a promise we made and did not keep; it may mean acknowledging to another that we did make a promise and did not keep that promise and what we can and cannot do about that. In other words, where integrity is not present there is some “mess” we made that has not yet been cleaned up. It is our job to clean up that mess by doing what is necessary to make it right. And, to be clear, this does not always mean following through on a commitment where it is not possible to do so; it does mean coming clean with that inability to follow through, apologizing and doing what can be done to make it right, even if that only be a sincere apology.
At its essence, integrity is about honoring our word; our word to others and our word to ourselves. And, when we look to honoring our word and what that means, we look not only to what we promised but what we expect from ourselves in making that promise, as well as what we believe the other person expects from us in making the promise. It is all of that.
Living life in integrity brings a life that works, a life that is filled with confidence, completeness and wholeness – in all areas where we function in the world.