Jay Rifenbary

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Integrity – A Profile of Individual Character

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As core values have been of prominent importance in the theme of my columns, it is essential that we define the core values we discuss with our self and others. In other words it is important to define for ourselves, and the people we influence, what we mean by what we say. For example, I can say the word “love” or “discrimination” and all of us will define these terms based on our life experience with them. For example, an understanding of what love means is developed through the healthy and/or unhealthy relationships we experience in life, and that is unique for everyone. Further, I do not believe that I have ever witnessed discrimination directed towards me in my life. Therefore, my innate sense of the meaning of that word, and the emotion it generates, will be different than someone who has experienced discrimination. The beauty of humanity is we all come into this world, hypothetically, wearing a different pair of glasses and based on our life experiences we all see the world differently. It is that individual outlook that makes each of us unique and wonderful. It is also what allows us to learn from each other and appreciate the differences among us. Can you imagine what a world it could be if this understanding was universally appreciated and understood?

Integrity can be a core value, is a positive leadership trait, and is a principle of behavior used commonly to define the character of a person. I ask you, “What is integrity?” The Oxford Dictionary definition of integrity states, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles: moral uprightness”. How do we know if a person possesses integrity? First, how many of you enjoy dealing with people who are indecisive, say one thing one day turn around the next day and do something else, someone who is inconsistent? There is no one that appreciates that behavior. When we are around individuals like this we lose respect for them, which depreciates their credibility.

Consistency in behavior is the first step to understanding if a person has integrity. The only way I can be consistent in my behavior is to understand what it is I stand for and believe in, my other core values. However, I cannot leave integrity at just consistency in behavior. Past and present day there have been, and are many individuals who have been consistent in their convictions and beliefs, and in the process have destroyed societies and decimated humanity. As referenced in the definition above, the other component that gives integrity it’s meaning and therefore credibility, is morality. What is morality? Morality is defined in the same dictionary as, “the extent to which an action is right or wrong.” Certainly that definition can be left to an enormous amount of interpretation. There are some who believe that exterminating others, who do not believe in the same God as they do, is completely moral. Regardless of some form of structured religion, I define morality in my life as how I treat another human being, and I believe we should treat one another with dignity and respect.

To summarize, if I can wake up every day, understanding what I stand for and believe in, my core values, act on those core values in a consistent manner, and in the process treat others with dignity and respect; when I go home at night and put my head on that pillow, I will most likely feel pretty good about the example I set that day. As a result, I will have demonstrated integrity; also resulting in a greater likelihood that I am being more personally honest with myself, which in turn allows me to hold myself and others accountable. The key to making fewer excuses is living a life that is a true reflection of who you are.

Finally, integrity is the barometer in evaluating the level of trust within a relationship, family and organization. Trust is the glue of every established human connection. When trust is broken the relationship is never the same. It is comparable to a broken bone. It may heal, but it is never what it was. Keep the bond of your relationships continually strong by consistently striving to be a person of integrity. By living a life of integrity and maintaining that bond of trust with those around you, you will have established the character of an individual respected by all.



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