“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” — Oprah Winfrey
Oprah really hit the nail on the head with this one. It is easy to do what you’re supposed to when you’re at work or out and about in public, but the true test of integrity is whether or not you have the ability to do the right thing even when nobody is watching. If you saw a piece of garbage on the street, would you pick it up? Sometimes, people don’t even do the right thing when others are watching, especially in public. In my opinion, seeing so many people we don’t know turns off our need to socialize because we can’t possibly socialize with everyone around us. Therefore, we all withdraw into our own worlds and refuse to come out, and because of this, people have a tendency to ignore things they would normally care about.
Integrity is a very broad term, and can be used to refer to large-scale integrity (such as not scamming your customers), small-scale integrity (not goofing off at work), and everything in between. Obviously we cannot always have integrity in everything we do. Some rules are so small and meaningless that we have no problem with breaking them. But then the question arises: does having integrity mean following the rules, or following your rules? And if it is the latter, what if your rules don’t match up with other people’s rules?
I can’t give you a precise answer, because there really isn’t a set definition of right and wrong, but in my opinion, I think that having integrity means being the best you you can be, all of the time. When you are balanced and at peace with yourself and the world, you emit a kind of positive energy, not just in the way you appear but in the things you do as well. You are more likely to act on impulses of doing the “right” thing, and it also becomes easier to differentiate between right and wrong. If you try to aim for this state of mind all the time, then you have integrity. I believe that integrity and acceptance of oneself go hand in hand.
If you are having trouble differentiating between right and wrong, here are two tips to help you through:
Follow your heart and your mind — Feelings of right and wrong are important, but so is reason. We often have animalistic impulses that we suppress because our cerebrum knows better. But sometimes, our mind gets out of control and marginalizes its own wrong actions, ignoring what we know is the right thing to do. So, it is important to take the best of both worlds when you are considering rights and wrongs.
Use your experiences — You have plenty of experience stored in your memory to know how things work, and if your experience is telling you something then it’s probably pretty important. Listen to it and even if somebody questions you, you will have the knowledge and passion to explain yourself eloquently.