Common wisdom says that we can destroy our integrity in an instant. Common wisdom is wrong.
That instant of destruction people refer to is not the moment we lose our integrity, rather it is the moment when the truth is discovered that we do not have integrity. It is at that moment of truth that the façade of who we are implodes and falls to the ground in a heap of rubble.
The truth is that every time we choose to lie about what we are doing, where we have been, or what we profess to be, we are destroying a bit of our integrity. It is only a matter of time before the truth is discovered and the carefully constructed façade is destroyed.
I watched a man destroy his integrity. He gambled on others never finding out about his addiction to an unhealthy lifestyle and repeated unhealthy choices, until those choices and the secrets about them ate him from the inside out.
Every lie he told was told with the belief that the end justified the means.
It is the same for all of us. It doesn’t matter whether what we do when no one is looking has the kind of consequences it had for this man.
It can be something as simple as illegally parking in space reserved for those with a handicap or as wearing a new dress with the tags carefully concealed and then returning it for a full refund after a special event, and telling ourselves no one will notice.
It can be failing to report cash income on a tax return, cheating on a spouse, or engaging in an addiction, all the while telling ourselves no one is being hurt by our choices and no one is the wiser.
It can be actions that can harm thousands, such as falsifying drug trial results, or inflating financial projections to investors, and telling ourselves it’s not our fault.
The list for acting without integrity is endless, but the reason is always the same: we tell ourselves we have a good reason.
The truth is, all we’re doing is choosing instant gratification and expediency over the longer term need to do what is right according to universally accepted moral values. And in that instant of gratification, we weaken ourselves and make it easier to choose wrong over right the next time, and the time after that, and the time after that, until, like this man, our life implodes and we bleed to death in an emergency room where no amount of modern medicine can save us.
It doesn’t matter whether what we do when no one is looking has the kind of consequences it had for this man. What matters is whether we have the courage to do what we know is right. When we act with integrity, others trust and respect us, they call us honest, and they hold us in high esteem. When we choose to live with integrity, we are free to build all of our relationships upon a strong foundation.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: Living with integrity is not always easy, but when we choose integrity over instant gratification or expediency, we create an unshakeable foundation for all of our relationships. The next time you’re tempted to go for the short-term gain, ask yourself whether you’re willing to accept the long-term consequence.