By Khin Maung Myint
Integrity shapes a person. This is an attribute that everyone, irrespective of profession or status must possess, but I doubt whether some people do. A person of integrity is always respected, trusted and relied upon.
Ever since I joined the service in my early twenties, our superiors frequently guided us to observe integrity. In those days I thought that integrity is an attribute of officers or leaders, because one of my mentors used to say that as officers we must have integrity, and OLQ. OLQ is an abbreviation of “officer-like qualities”. When we asked him what those OLQs are, he said there are dos and don’ts that officers must observe. In general, any behaviour, manner, conduct or action that could lead us to “unbecoming an officer” must be avoided, he said. Though he didn’t go into detail to explain what ‘integrity is, I thought I understood what he meant.
Later in life, as I gained more experience and knowledge, I came to realize that the word ‘integrity’ has a wide range of meanings representing every aspect of human behaviour, manner and character. It’s not the attribute of the officers only, but also that of a person of any walk of life, who are worthy of being called a true gentleman.
Definition of integrity
So, let us see what this word means, as the dictionaries define. According to one, it is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Its synonymous to honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honour, honourableness, good character, principles, ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness. A person with integrity is acknowledged as a gentleman who is respected and held in high esteem. Here, I would like to point out that wealth, position or status do not define a gentleman, but only integrity does.
However, I would like to emphasize that people in high positions should possess integrity as a must. No one would respect a person who lacks integrity, though they may be feared due to their ranks or positions and the authorities they wield. From my point of view, one should at least be honest, sincere, truthful, have principles, decent, fair, and above all possesses a good character to be regarded as a gentleman of integrity. This attribute will carry him a long way in his career or business and will be respected and honored by others.
Integrity and leadership
To realize the importance of integrity, I will mention some useful quotes regarding integrity, made by some famous people. Socrates once said “Be as you wish to seem”, while Plato’s outlook was “Integrity is your destiny – it is the light that guides your way.” General Douglas MacArthur defined ‘integrity’ from the leadership aspect, thus: “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” Another famous general and president, Dwight D. Eisenhower said “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible.” American author Zig Ziglar’s view is: “It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.”
Integrity in general
Apart from the above quotes made by great philosophers and leaders, there are many made by people from all walks of life. Famous Hollywood actress Oprah Winfrey has this to say about integrity: “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” I totally agree with her. Do what you have to do without advertising it to others or to put it bluntly, do not brag about it.
Barbara De Angelis, a relationship consultant, lecturer, author and TV personality defined integrity, thus: “Living with integrity means not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships; asking for what you want and need from others; speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension; behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values; making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.”
Integrity and character
The character of an individual has much influence on that person’s integrity, which is well highlighted by philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist George Santayana as follows: “Our character is an omen of our destiny, and the more integrity we have and keep, the simpler and nobler that destiny is likely to be.”
At the beginning of this article, I stated that “integrity shapes a person”. This statement is supported by the wise words of George Santayana, who said, “The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny, it is the light that guides your way.” In relation to character, Thomas Paine also said, “Character is much easier kept than recovered.” So we should take care not to lose it as it would be difficult to recover. You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. The integrity of a person is to be measured by their conducts, not by their professions.
Integrity and success
According to the words of the wise, integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. When you are able to maintain your own highest standards of integrity — regardless of what others may do — you are destined for greatness, or integrity is the essence of everything successful. A person of integrity conforms reality to their words — in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations, even after circumstances have changed. Losers make promises they often break, whereas winners make commitments they always keep. The glue that holds all relationships together is trust, and trust is based on integrity. People of integrity and honesty not only practice what they preach, they are what they preach. Each person must live one’s life as a model to others.
Integrity and truth
Integrity and truth are inseparable. Truth allows you to live with integrity. Everything you do and say shows the world who you really are, so always be truthful. The best policy is: if it is not right, don’t do it; if it is not true, don’t say it. One person of integrity can make a difference, thus humanity’s fate hangs on personal integrity. Each one of us could make the difference, so we should opt for integrity.
There are over a thousand or so quotations by famous leaders, generals, philosophers, writers and actors, but for the purpose of this article, I chose only those that are related to character, honesty, truth and trust. Which, from my point of view are the most essential qualities that constitute integrity.
Before concluding I would like to highlight the quality of leadership by mentioning what President Dwight D. Eisenhower said. He said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
Thus integrity is the key to success for every professional. Here I would like to add that, those in politics should also possess high standards of integrity to garner the trust of the people and not to veer away from the moral principles expected of them, under any circumstances. Having said that, allow me to conclude by quoting President Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”