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SALT LAKE CITY — We have all most likely heard about a bridge collapse and the devastating results that occur. When the report comes out about why there was a collapse, more often than not there is a statement that the “integrity of the bridge” failed. Just like what can happen when the integrity of a bridge fails, if we let our integrity slip or fail, we too will face devastating results.
One of the most valuable characteristics that any person or organization can have is integrity. This vital quality engenders respect, support, credibility, success, understanding and so many other positive adjectives. There have been enough examples of what happens when trust is broken and honesty no longer exists. Companies have failed, countries have revolted, people have died and many have lost their way. In short, devastating results can occur. However, when integrity stays intact and a priority, a person or organization can rise to new levels of success.
Many successful companies spend quite a bit of money investing in the principle of integrity and ethics. Yet there are other organizations where leaders have not emphasized the importance of maintaining integrity and, in fact, shown by personal example what happens when decisions are made for personal gain.
More often than not, when the decision is made to no longer be honest and trustworthy, tunnel vision exists and the thought of others goes away.
The attraction for personal gain in today’s world has been overemphasized and glamorized. The issue is that the generations coming behind us are going to follow what we do, not what we say. This seeking of personal gain often comes from the thought process that integrity is simply something we can have only when we want.
It is devastating to think that so many believe integrity is a conditional principle. It is not. You cannot look at your calendar and say, "Tuesday and Friday look like good days to be honest," and then the other days of the week act contrary to that principle. Eventually, it will catch up.
Integrity is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-day-a-year principle. It is who we are. Unfortunately, many good people, leaders, organizations and companies have made the conscious decision to set aside their ethics. Often those who have made these bad decisions quickly try to blame others for their actions. They refuse to take accountability.
This should not surprise anyone. Face it: When we are caught doing something wrong, it is not in our nature to 'fess up. One of the main reasons is because we are so humiliated and angry with ourselves. When this happens, it has a lasting impact. It is the difference between a moment of gratification and true happiness.
The principle of integrity most often are found in those who are humble, service-oriented, honest, ethical and happy. Those that do not hold honesty in high regard consist of those who are selfish, unethical, sneaky and prideful.
Happiness seems to be a goal that many strive for. The problem comes when we try to define what happiness is for every single person, organization, team or country. We come from different backgrounds and thus must have the ability to find the happiness that can lead to good thoughts, actions and habits.
In looking at the principle of integrity, it seems that there are clear distinctions between the words that define a person who is trustworthy and honest and ones that do not have integrity.
The principle of integrity most often are found in those who are humble, service-oriented, honest, ethical and happy. Those that do not hold honesty in high regard consist of those who are selfish, unethical, sneaky and prideful. It seems essential to ask ourselves questions to provide a temperature check if we are living with integrity.
Here are some questions that might be helpful:
- Am I proud of who I am?
- Would I want others to follow what I am doing or saying?
- Do others want to associate with me? Why or why not?
- Who are the people influencing me?
These questions, when answered honestly, can help a person and organization stay on track. You must be willing to stand up for who you are and your values. It can make a difference, not just with you but those around you.
If anyone thinks it is too late, think again. If this one principle of integrity was lived by more people, organizations, teams and countries, the world would be a better place. Not only that, the happiness that would come from this conscious decision would provide the type of environment that would allow more opportunities to achieve goals, dreams and aspirations.
You never know. Perhaps the next great positive influence on society will come from you. Do not let others buy your integrity. Put up a sign that says, "Integrity — Not for Sale."
Seth Saunders is the President of South University's Virginia Beach Campus and a Founding Board Member of The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation. Seth loves spending time with his beautiful wife and three amazing boys.