in·teg·ri·ty /ɪnˈtɛgrɪti/ 1.adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. 2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire. 3.a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition
Do you ever have epiphanies of basic, simple concepts? I’d like to say that I have flashes of genius in areas yet unexplored and undefined. But, no, my “flashes” lead me to exclaim, “Eureka! Look what I’ve discovered! The sky really is blue!” Only to see others shrug their shoulders and say, “Yeah, what else is new?” I had one of these flashes recently on the definition of “integrity.”
I have a wonderful long-time friend who is so supportive of me. And, yet, I found out that he is also supportive of my husband. You know, the husband who has stolen money from my mother, who has abandoned his entire family, and who has left me with a butt-load of debt? Yeah, that one.
I found myself wishing that my friend had told me upfront that he was doing this rather than acting like he was so very outraged by my husband’s behavior. I’m getting used to the “we love you both” routine. I guess I just felt a little fooled.
I can’t tell you how unsettling it is to find that my friend, who has offered advice and consolation in the grimmest times through my trial, is doing exactly the same for the “other side.” Especially since his support seemed so absolute, decrying the acts which were the cause of my woes.
This is so unsettling that I have been a bit confused by it, thought a lot about it. My newest Psychology Today (July/August 2010, page 12)magazine has an article with a statement that fits here. In considering where actions seem to conflict with words, the author speaks to a feeling that there is a “gap in knowledge” about someone, the article says:
It’s the whole reason the human brain freaks out when a picture is out of focus. The brain likes coherent patterns.
I agree. I like actions to line up with words. Otherwise, the picture seems out of focus, for sure, and my brain freaks out.
The shock of this revelation was deepened by the fact that I found out about this through my husband, himself. You know, he did not have to tell me that my friend was “there for him” too. It did not come up naturally in the conversation. Hubby could not wait to tell me--it was totally gratuitous. He loves the opportunity to say things like, “See, what I have done does not really matter to anyone. No one judges me—everyone will get past it, and life will continue as normal.”
What gives? And I started to analyze.
I think to some it sounds noble to “not take sides,” to be a friend and support to both in instances like mine. But I’m thinking “noble” is not the appropriate word here.
My friend is a “pleaser,” a super-nice guy and because of that he is always very pleasing to be around. He smiles through most everything. I have seen him deliver not-so-good news with a smile on his face, as if to soften the bad-news blow. True, I have never seen him deliver devastating news, but still the smile has at times seemed out of place to me. Discordant. I’ve noticed it before. And, yet, I would not have called him “insincere.”
Unlike me, who is paid to rock boats, my friend is not a boat-rocker. In fact, I’ve realized, he will go to great lengths to avoid rocking the boat, sometimes to his own detriment. Is this a positive attribute? Is it even honest?
And I’ve thought a lot about the fact that his inability to cross folks works to his own detriment. Indeed, he too has suffered damage at the hands of my husband because of his failure to cross him, to say “no” at times when common sense told him he should. And, yet, he continues to act like nothing has happened, in spite of his own financial injury. He’s been duped because of his reluctance to inquire (which might offend) on more than one occasion.
It seems to me that if one has a moral compass and follows it, one will be led astray less often. If you know someone one is a cheat and a liar to begin with, then it seems that you should take a stand against that—refuse to do business with those, for example, or you risk your own well-being.
Those Who Stand For Nothing, Fall For Anything" - Alexander Hamilton
Is all this just the Christian principle of “turning the other cheek?” I’ve tried to make that fit, but I just can’t. My instinct tells me that is not the real explanation. That, rather than being a sign of Christian virtue, my friend’s response to our situation is, in fact, a symptom of something not so positive.
So, I started to think about integrity, because that is the word that kept coming up in my brain. What is it? In the past I have thought of people who lack integrity as people who might steal from you, cheat when the opportunity presents, or some other nefarious, clearly-bad behavior. But my friend does not fit that mold. He would be the last person I would call a “cheat” or expect to steal. And, yet, I have come to question his “integrity.” And I think my concern lies in the concept of consistency or soundness.
In other words, his inconsistency (two-faced? not exactly…) calls into question the soundness of his whole ethical framework. I like him very much. He has been nothing but kind to me. And, yet, I will not soon trust him so much as I have before because I am unsure of that ethical framework.
I guess what I expect of a person to whom I attribute integrity is consistency. I expect to know what that person stands for, what he or she generally thinks is right or wrong, and I expect his actions to be consistent with that code. If they aren’t, then what is there to trust?
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:8.
Well, you’d want someone who can shoot straight, alright, but there’s more to it. I submit that they must be those who have acted consistently, for whom you have a framework on which to rest predictions of how they will act, what they will do. Not only must they be honest and caring, they must be dependable, and I think this is where the nuance of integrity comes in.
And so, because my friends’ actions are so discordant with the words he has given to me on numerous occasions, he seems unsteady to me somehow. I remain his friend, I enjoy our time together, but I will not likely choose him for the foxhole. Not reliable. Out of focus.
Do I judge him too harshly? C