Integrity in the eye of the beholder

Posted on March 12, 2016

Most of us try to lead our lives with integrity. But what does that mean?

Recently I was thinking what a waste of time Facebook can be, and asked myself how a medium that simply connects people based on an ‘algorithm’ that assesses their interests, preferences and ‘friends’ can be anything but beneficial?

The short answer is: It lacks integrity. I’m not saying the people who come together on Facebook are any less worthy or complete than anyone else; just that the medium is not capable of conveying or cultivating integrity, and worse, that it could distract and prevent us from getting there. Integrity is face-to-face. It lies at the heart of relationships that have been built over time and proven through action. The main aspects of integrity cannot be established through a medium like Facebook.

Honesty, forthrightness, self-awareness and vision are all qualities part-in-parcel of integrity; they can only be expressed, believed and proven through direct, personal encounters over time. The marketer’s bland bandying of words like ‘integrity’ is an unsubstantiated claim, which all too often proves untrue, and cheapens the very meaning of the word.

We tend to emphasize only honesty when we talk about integrity, as if the two words were synonymous. But, though you cannot have integrity without honesty; speaking the truth isn’t – in and of itself – enough to earn the trust that comes with integrity. You must speak the truth consistently, over a long period; and be fulsome in speaking true, not selecting facts to suit your present purpose; the truth you speak has to be durable, not changeable from day to day; and your truth had best be connected to a larger truth, augmenting and augmented by a common purpose.

These are some of the attributes of integrity. They are qualities that emerge and are tested over time, in direct encounters. It’s next to impossible to convey anything but an unsubstantiated assertion of integrity via a medium as fractured and purposefully casual as Facebook – to which devotees might retort: That’s not the point or purpose of the medium.

Agreed, but that doesn’t prevent people from using Facebook as if it could establish the kind of credibility that comes with integrity. And the observation needn’t be narrowed to Facebook only – social media in general, and traditional media too, pretend to be channels that convey messages of integrity in one way or another. In general there is an inverse relationship between the value of a perception about someone or something, and the number of channels or people it has passed through getting to you; integrity is best established eye-to-eye.

In closing, it’s worth making a distinction between what can be called ‘intentional’ and ‘natural’ integrity. A person who consciously strives to conduct his affairs with integrity is intentionally so; a person, who by nature, exhibits the hallmarks of integrity is naturally so. One version isn’t better than the other, as far as I can tell, but the person who acts intentionally with integrity is more likely to look for ways to strengthen and deepen that aspect of his being and think of it as a measure he expects to be judged by.

Upcoming Ideas: Who am I? / Nothing out of Nothing – so every thing’s always been / The four aspects of living spirit: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual / ‘Til death do us part – the inalienable nature of Natural Rights / Ego: The necessary illusion / Just because or jest because.

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