Integrity is always a priority, but priorities don’t always involve integrity. Hoo-nōs
Integrity: 1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. 2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished. Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (2001). Thunder Bay Press.
Psychologist Erik Erikson named his last developmental stage in the lifespan ego integrity versus despair—one either had either acquired wisdom or distain.
Naturally, not everything is categorical as in things are either good or bad, moral or immoral, honest or dishonest. And good luck with the definition of integrity, as individual and cultural perceptions—interpretations—are part of the application of integrity. But the idea as near as I can ascertain is at some point, however we have lived, we will die. As that point becomes clearer—as it is for many of us who are part of the “greying of America”—the inevitability of death brings with it a demand that may not have been as apparent in our youth: Did we live and behave with integrity as best we could or did we live and behave in some slipshod manner that left a negative footprint which can no longer be undone in what remains of our life?
Of course one’s integrity is not the purview of the old, but of the living. And one should not wait to realize that until death looms, if for no other reason than death is not just an effect for the old, but also for the living.
So what’s our obligation?: Perhaps it is to invoke our integrity and the discipline that is inherent in the practice of integrity when we interact in any of our relationships, whether it’s politics, economics, religion, education, law, information, judgment, intimacy, our individual selves, community, culture, nations, our planet. Integrity is a stewardship, one we are born with and which cannot be taken away, but can be given away.
Too great a responsibility for one person? Nope. But we are not just one, we are many. So it is too great a responsibility to pile on one person—or one group for that matter. We all screw up at some time or the other—that’s a guarantee. What isn’t guaranteed is our recovery. I’m only one, and an imperfect one of course, but I suspect the best practice of democracy and the fundamental issue that has faced us, is presently afoot, and what will face us, is our ability to realize our self-interest includes the interest of all, but is not usurped by either. To that application, the practice of integrity, including knowing that practice is not always based on consensus, is an imperative—one unlikely to ever be otherwise.