What is Integrity and why is it important?
I will start by saying that if you are looking for a job or career then integrity (whatever it means) is very important. I was job hunting some time back and one friend I knew called me and said that he knew of a certain opening. But the requirement was that the person – in addition to being competent – should also be a person of impeccable integrity.
I am a person with a controversial reputation and it did not take me much time to interpret the hint. Because of my questionable integrity I could not get the job.
So – in some circles at least – integrity is very important to be considered for jobs, especially senior management positions. I think that in any position where you have access to sensitive information being trustworthy is very important so that the person employing you knows that you will not misuse your knowledge to harm him.
So what is integrity? Does it only mean that you are trustworthy and do not have any bad motives?
I think that integrity boils down to the following three traits:
- You should not tell lies
- You should not be corrupt in the sense that you should not give or accept bribes
- You should be a man (or woman) who keeps his word
The importance of keeping your word is derived from the Old Testament which begins with the phrase – In the beginning was the Word.
In civilizations which are based on the Bible – like the western countries – I think that the importance of keeping your word comes from this teaching. And it is an excellent teaching that – if followed – will lead to prosperity in whichever nation it is practiced.
Napoleon Bonaparte described Great Britain as a nation of shopkeepers. Shopkeepers, if they keep their word and have a reputation of doing so, are more likely to prosper. And Great Britain also benefited by getting for itself (in the Victorian era) an empire which covered half the world.
So Napoleon may have intended to make a derogatory comment but he pin pointed what may have been the greatest strength of the British nation of his time. For all of Napoleon’s genius in the battlefield France was ultimately defeated by Great Britain and its allied nations.
So integrity is important and I would advice all young job seekers to take it seriously and develop the qualities listed above.
I have another friend with whom I discussed this subject. Because of my bad experiences that arose from my being a controversial person I complained that I did not see why integrity should be so important. My fried replied that it is the basis of ethics and should be treated as such.
Now this second friend of mine is an employee in the hospitality sector and depends on his salary to meet his expenses. He has been burnt badly in an earlier job by not getting his salary on time. It is not surprising that he should consider integrity important.
But I think that there are other traits which are important in any good human being. One trait that integrity does not cover is being good natured.
According the Emerson and Greek mythology it is impossible for a person to act against his (or her) nature for any length of time. A good natured person will be friendly and not have bad intentions towards you. He will help you because it is his nature; he cannot help himself. That is I think a sounder basis to judge a person than whether he (or she) has integrity or not.
In the Bhagavad Gita also there is a text that says:
It is better to do your own dharma (calling) even imperfectly, than someone else’s dharma perfectly. Even better to die in your dharma than in another’s, which brings great fear.
I am interpreting the word Dharma to mean your own nature.
Also another fact – India is a predominantly Hindu country. There is much less emphasis on keeping your word here for that reason. In Hinduism – if I am not mistaken – the emphasis is on the fact that the Divine is One but sages speak about it in different ways. Keeping your word is not important for that reason.
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