What does "integrity" mean?

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clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Integrity is defined as consistency in actions, values, methods, measures, expectations and outcomes.  It has also been defined as having an intuitive sense of honesty and truthfulness.

I always explain integrity like this: it's doing the right thing, even when there's no one there to see you do it.

In literature, we consider Atticus Finch to be a character of integrity.  He defends a black man in a racist society to the best of his ability - even though he knows he will lose.

It is doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do - not because of the reward, or the fame, or some other positive reinforcement.  In fact, typically, integrity is a quality that must withstand the test of receiving no reward for goodness - simply to be called integrity.  Because, if a reward exists for doing something right, it would be too easy to look at the reward as the motivation for doing the right thing.  But if an immediate reward definitely does not exist but someone does the right thing anyway, we consider it integrity.

I like the definition that includes the word "consistency."  Integrity is not a one-time deal.  To be considered a person of integrity - you also have to have consistency that passes the test of time.

burbina's profile pic

burbina | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Integrity means you are in public what and who you are behind closed doors.  You are consistent in your actions, attitude, personality, behavior, and so one...everything that makes you who you are.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The previous thoughts were well warranted.  I see "integrity" as possessing a morally virtuous code of conduct and being transparent about one's ability to strive towards it.  Integrity means not seeking to take the easy way out of one's ethical responsibility.  We think of "virtuous" individuals as those who are able to articulate a moral code and act upon it with certainty and a clarity of vision.  Indeed, Atticus Finch strikes me as someone with integrity.  Walt Whitman's depiction of President Lincoln in "O Captain, My Captain," is another example of a protagonist with integrity.  Hector from The Iliad is one who is filled with integrity. We can also examine individuals who display behavior that shows a lack of integrity.  For example, in the days following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP sought to deflect blame for their operation of the rig that malfunctioned and broke.  They succumbed to political and social pressure and had to accept the blame.  I would say their unwillingness to immediately assume responsibility for the disaster represents a lack of integrity.  When Bernard Madoff defrauds individuals of millions of dollars, this is another example of a lack of integrity.

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