While many people have some semblance of what “integrity” entails, a lot of them only see part of the picture. Yes, integrity involves moral uprightness. Yes, integrity involves honesty and authenticity. Yes, it involves “doing the right thing.” But it’s more than that, deeper than that.
Integrity comes from the Latin adjective integer, which denotes wholeness. As a concept, integrity means that every component of who you are is in sync with every other aspect of yourself, leading to a level of internal consistency that makes you seem like a complete individual. You are yourself, and you always act according to your nature—in a morally upright way, of course.
Not sure if you have integrity? Here are some signs to look for (or work on).
1. You Accept Responsibility for Mistakes
When you’re confronted by a mistake you’ve made—whether at work, in a personal relationship, or even just an encounter with a stranger—and your first instinct is to shift blame to someone or something else, then you lack integrity. Blame shifting can find its roots in a lot of issues, such as insecurity, fear, or arrogance; on the other hand, someone with true integrity is secure enough that mistakes won’t damage their sense of identity and mature enough to accept that they made the mistake and go about rectifying the situation.
2. You’re Vulnerable
True integrity means you’re confident in who you are as a person, and as a result, you don’t feel compelled to hide who you are by putting up a facade when meeting new people (or even when bouncing from one social circle to another). This kind of openness demands a level of vulnerability on your part, but it’s that vulnerability that shows you have true integrity.
3. You’re Self-Sacrificial for Others
When you are a whole person, you don’t clamor to bring down others in order to raise yourself up, whether that’s in the context of work promotions, office politics, friendships, etc. In fact, if you’re truly a whole person, you’re content with what you have and where you are, which allows you to give freely to others: your time, your energy, your attention, even your money. Sometimes, it may not even be a burden—it’s a joy to sacrifice what’s yours for the good of another.
4. You’re Generous With Forgiveness
I dislike cliched adages but some of them do hold kernels of truth, as in the case of “Hurt people hurt people.” People without integrity seek out vengeance or retribution when they’ve been slighted, and often do so in a way where the punishment exceeds the crime. Forgiveness is costly—yes, it hurts to absorb a wrongdoing against you instead of lashing out in retaliation—but people with integrity have what it takes to de-escalate rather than escalate.
5. You Build Others Up
People who are incomplete want others to be incomplete so they themselves don’t feel like they’re broken or out of place. They tear down others—especially those who appear to have it all together, but also those who are particularly weak and vulnerable—so they themselves can feel better. People with integrity don’t need to feel better about themselves; in fact, they try to see the best in others and want them to be the best versions of themselves, then do what they can to help.
6. You Keep Your Promises
One aspect of integrity is staying true to your word. Your promises are an extension of your will, and any time you break a promise, you’re causing a disconnect—and that’s not what a whole person does. It’s not that you need to promise the whole world to everyone who asks of it; indeed, people with integrity know their own limits, know how to say “No” when necessary, and know to only make promises they know they can keep. But when you do make a promise, you keep it. You are your word.
7. You Do What’s Right Even When Alone
People with integrity don’t need the approval of others. They don’t need to virtue signal. They don’t need to prove themselves. Indeed, people who only do what’s right when others are there to witness it are often using external actions to cover up internal deficiencies. When you have integrity, you do what’s right even when nobody will ever know what you’ve done.