walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

what does integrity mean?

Here's what made me start thinking about this. In Crittenden's _If You've Raised Kids..._, Chapter 10, "Habits of Integrity":

BYU poli sci prof Valerie Hudson sez: "Mothers have to craft a life that their kids can emulate. They are fully visible to their kids. Sometimes I'll think maybe I can cut a corner here or there and do something an easier way, and then I'll think, no, they are fully aware of what I do, and I always have to be setting that example." This seems to be what Hudson calls "Habits of Integrity".

My immediate reaction to this is complete incredulity. How could Hudson (and Crittenden) present _this_ as an example of integrity with a straight face? This is just faking it 24/7. This is being "good" because Jesus (or God or whoever) can see you no matter where you are. Please! That is not integrity.

Is it?

Maybe it is. A bunch of the definitions I've found suggest that strict adherence to a moral or ethical code = integrity, and this would seem to satisfy that definition quite nicely.

I tend to think of integrity in a very different way. As an example: I think it's really wrong to use corporal punishment on children. Period. I think if you do, you screwed up. I also will freely admit to screwing up. I've bit T. back and I've hit him when he hit me. Which is to say, I've screwed up. I try to learn from it, but I'm not under any particular illusion that I will somehow miraculously never screw up again -- my goal is largely to keep making new different and interesting mistakes, rather than just repeating the old ones over and over and over again.

I also think that absolute honesty is, at minimum, highly overrated and often absolutely uncalled for. While I try to be fair, I know perfectly well that no matter how hard I try, some things I do will be perceived as unfair, particularly by my children once they are grown. I think violence is every bit as natural as, say, sex, and mindlessly suppressing either one without giving careful consideration to appropriateness and so forth is a Really Bad Idea. I think if someone sets up a bunch of rules that I don't agree with, and it's not safe (or effective or whatever) for me to change those rules in an up-front and above-board way, it should be expected that, given sufficient provocation or motivation, I'll just break those rules and do what I can to avoid being caught doing so -- and I expect other people to do the same.

Which leaves me with a problem. What is a shortcut, a la Valerie Hudson? I do what I do and I learn from the consequences. Integrity, to me, is more about describing who I am accurately, than about trying to wrench myself into being someone else. (In much the same way, I now realize that the way I schedule things is really more about predicting the future than trying to control it. Hunh.) Is integrity the wrong word for this? It's definitely the "value system" that I would want to pass along to others.

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