Integrity. Here’s the definition as written online at merriam-webster.com
: the quality of being honest and fair
: the state of being complete or whole
Full Definition of INTEGRITY
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness
Examples of INTEGRITY
- He's a man of the highest integrity.
- I admire her artistic integrity.
- She had the integrity to refuse to compromise on matters of principle.
- Without music, the film loses its integrity.
- They are trying to preserve the cultural integrity of the community.
- The earthquake may have damaged the building's structural integrity.
In my previous, which was also my first, post here on Medium, I touched on the topic of Integrity. In light of continuance and no less in light of this actually being, from what I believe, a very important topic, I think we need to look a bit further on the subject.
I’m an avid reader and very often read books on business, management and leadership and ever so often you’ll come across a statement that says that the number one quality that most business people (and probably others too) believe is critical for good business is that of: Integrity.
So if so many of us agree on that, why is it then that we so often encounter people who seem to lack a considerable amount of Integrity, let along seem to be completely oblivious to its existence altogether?
I had a friend once, who I always believed lacked integrity. He was a very nice person most of the time, but he always seemed to skip corners and cheat his way through everywhere he went.
Always he had an angle on stuff and always it seemed he wouldn’t fail at proving himself to be untrustworthy through and through.
His family was very nice too. Father, mother, sister and brothers. I enjoyed spending time with them and we had many nice moments.
But my friend’s negative traits didn’t come from nowhere. In fact it would seem that the entire family was through and through people who always abused the system whenever and where ever the system could be abused.
Anything from obtaining grants and funds from the comprehensive social system of Denmark when really they wouldn’t be categorized as people belonging to a group in need of government funds, to delivering sub-par work and to cheating anybody that could be cheated.
Because I wished them to be really nice, I also wished them not to have these negatives engrained in them. I wished them different. But no matter how much I wished them different, they always demonstrated that this was indeed who they were.
Well, ultimately I had to make a choice. Do I have these people in my group of friends or do we part ways?
As you can imagine, it can sit very poorly with you, if you wish to be a person of high integrity, to socialize with people who are not. Whether you partake in their schemes or not, you are witnessing things, behaviors and expressions of conduct that just don’t sit well with you.
Of course it couldn’t last.
All my worst impressions and fears were only proven correct and proven once more and once more correct. Letting them go from people I wish to associate with and letting them go from my list of people I consider friends was the only choice.
The choice, of course, was made even easier once the friend cheated me — or at least tried to — in a reasonably large way. I was a fool for allowing the situation to even exist, but my friend offered me help with something that came at a time, when it was very useful to me. Yes, it was a moment of weakness on my part.
I had my worst suspicions, but I also naively thought perhaps, he would appreciate our friendship to such a degree as not to ruin it. No such thing. I was proven an idiot for having allowed myself into such situation and I had to pay the price. I was stupid for I should have known better. I did know better. And yet, I took his help and placed myself in that awkward spot and paid the price for the cheating.
Naturally, there was no help or support to be gotten from the rest of his family, who just proved once again, that the demeanor and attitude and the lacking character traits ran deep in the entire family.
Too bad. For like I said, they were very enjoyable people to hang with. But fool me once — shame on you. Fool me twice — shame on me.
In hindsight, it only seems natural, that when you have cheating parents who abuse systems on regular basis and misuse people whenever they can, then their offspring is likely to follow suit. I believe this was the case for this family. Everybody from father, to mother, to sister through to three brothers — all had the same traits, the same horrific character flaws. It was apparent in conversations with them and it was apparent whenever they expressed their opinions.
It’s not a good excuse though. As you mature, you yourself will have to decide upon the person you wish to be. Although you may have been heavily influenced by what your parents or peers did, then this is a poor excuse for you to continue such poor behavior and poor choices.
In business, we meet such people too.
Some people will skip corners, cheat the unknowing person or the naive. They will misuse any system when ever it benefits them and they will know all the angles. They will be concerned with obtaining small benefits rather than working on delivering high value to the market place for which they eventually will receive rewarding compensation.
Fortunately, I believe that most people are good people (I didn’t always have that outlook and yes, I will also from time to time be negatively surprised and fooled). I also believe that most people strive to be people of integrity.
Nevertheless, we encounter them from time to time.
The problem with such people is, that if they believe themselves to be able to get away with it once, they’ll usually believe they can get away with again. If they can fool one person, they usually believe they can fool others too.
They will lie. At first these lies may be of relative insignificance, but over time the lies have a tendency to grow, just like the consequences have a tendency to grow.
What I often find is, that they very often believe themselves to be completely undetected.
I have conducted business throughout a number of years with a person whom I beginning to believe just may be a person who has fallen so far down his own ladder of integrity.
He is intelligent and he has made results. Good results. He can be charming and funny and has a high degree of creativeness.
But he is also creative in his story telling, basically telling too many stories and redirecting people away from the truth or misdirecting their attention.
In a conversation with him once, when the tone and the topic was of certain severity already, I told him outright that he was full of lies. I used an expression that we have in Danish. It probably won’t translate very well, but you’ll get the sentiment of it I’m sure. I told him:
“You can lie as fast as a horse can run”.
His reaction was one of astonishment, as he asked me: “What do you mean by that?”
I told him, that he had a nasty tendency to lie and that he was basically lying to me left and right.
In truth his astonishment probably routed in the fact that he believed he always got away with it and that people didn’t notice.
Well, people do notice. They may not react straight away for there may be no need. Usually people aren’t that stupid.
But what it tells me, is that many such people, believe they get away with it and probably from there it grows. More lies begets more lies.
It also spreads. They probably start at home telling small lies to perhaps the spouse. Then small lies to the colleagues and friends. The to customers and partners. Soon enough they tell lies left and right.
Often the lies may bear little or no consequence (at least it may seem that way).
Like I said; they often believe they can get away with it. But if you noticed it, chances are that others notice it too. And even a small lie can set the tone and sentiment for all future encounters with that person.
The problem is that the habit grows and it becomes worse and worse. Again you end up having to make some conscious decisions of whether it is time to part ways or not.
At first the lie may be something just to avoid revealing something embarrassing that took place or a lack of some insight that the person should have on hand or such. In other words, the lie come about as a means to save face in a small situation.
But over time the lie is bigger.
Ultimately, the lies may in fact ultimately cover up for down right deceit.
These days, I’m facing situations in business where I encounter a couple of such people. That means that I’m finding myself in a situation where I need to question myself on how much further I can go with them.
When the business is one you run together in one form or another, then you need to visit the question of parting ways in that business. Either go separately, or one buys out the other (in case of partnerships etc.) or perhaps you sell the business altogether to a third part.
The best psychologists will usually tell you that you cannot change people. Own experience tells me that if I believe that I can change someone, I usually will end up getting very frustrated.
If you wish to be a person of high integrity, your are forced to greater degree to make what will often be a tough decision. But aligning yourself or any of your activities with people who seem to be lacking integrity just cannot work well. You may be able to for a short period of time, but it cannot work over a long haul.
Above, I spoke about and example of a friend lacking integrity and i spoke of it from experience in business. Unfortunately, I have encountered it numerous places and in numerous incidences. I have encountered it on Boards Of Directors, among colleagues, friends, partners and seen it happen over and over in other companies and businesses. I have of course encountered it also to too large an extent within my own family growing up and still ongoing.
I wish it was different. I wish people were stronger so as not to cheat their way to their results and outcomes. I wish there was no deceit. But we live in the real world and we have to make real and conscious decisions.
As stated, the lies, the deceit and other misdirections often start on a small level and where the consequences can have little effect. But they seem invariably to grow and all of a sudden you definitely do not want to be part of it and certainly not want to be a victim of it.
We all have to visit with ourselves and our consciousness what we can go along with and what we can take and bear witness off.
Ultimately, I believe, it’s really a question very much associated with