I initially thought that my description of integrity would be easy to put together as an essay that would lay down my personal principles about how one could obtain and pursue a life of integrity. It seems however that the concept of integrity has many facets.
Integrity reflects how consistent one is with their adherence to a belief system or moral code. It is the quality of being predictable according to a set of values or a dogmatic approach to situations and lifes problems. To judge someone as having integrity usually means that they have adhered to most of the standards that we think of as important.
I come from a long line of dogmatic individuals. I was taught a code of moral values and honesty that has remained increasingly incorruptible as I have gotten older. This dogma contributes to one’s integrity. Obviously, this dogma needs to be sound and based on what are considered good and appropriate social values.
Honesty and truthfulness is another significant part of my perception of integrity. That you speak what you know as the truth with the qualification that it is your personal belief and experience, must be mandated as part of the formula for integrity. For example, writing this essay about my personal beliefs and practices as opposed to putting to paper what I think you might want to read is a great example of personal and academic integrity. I have always been taught that you should keep your “word” and be thought of as someone who always “keeps his word” and”does what he says”.
I think an unbiased approach to the truth is an important part of integrity. I tried to instill this principle of integrity in my students and advisees by telling stories. I have many stories from my experience as an orthopedic surgeon over many, many years. The stories that I remember convey consequences and outcomes about integrity and life choices. My response to the personalities in these stories speak loudly about the principles of integrity as well as about my perspective about integrity
I think that it was important (when I was on faculty at a local college and had advisees) to tell my advisees that they don’t make good medical school candidates and that they need another plan for their life if that is indeed the truth. I think that it is a disservice to them if they are given false hope for a career that is really not within their abilities to grasp. It is not easy to do this but I feel that my integrity as an advisor requires me to do this.
Social context cannot be forgotten in describing integrity. Those societies that encourage people to be honest with themselves and use their abilities to be critical of their own persona, are usually more conducive to promoting integrity. This society would promote values of honesty and individual responsibility, as opposed to those of success and career at any cost.
I think that personal adherence to this values system is also a manifestation of integrity. One must “walk the walk” and live their life following the principles that you preach, otherwise you have no credibility or integrity. One must be continually self-aware and maintain a constant watch over the incessant bombardment of the world against personal standards and beliefs. To acknowledge these conflicts and to declare them to others helps them learn how to live with integrity. You must care enough about yourself and others to maintain your personal integrity as one of your highest priorities.
I try to portray integrity to my students by being fair and just in my handling of their grades and academic measures. I try to portray Integrity by being available when I say I will and by being on time or early to appointments. I try to be fair in assignments and responsibilities in course work and try to put myself in their shoes. Part of integrity is having respect for the views of others. These small things leave an impression on my students and advisees. I try to tell the truth and if I don’t know, I tell them I don’t know. I try to convey the lessons about life that I have learned by using my life as an example, sometimes as a bad one as well.
When all is said and done in life, the only thing that people will know about you is your character. Once that is damaged, it is very difficult to repair. They will know whether you were fair, honest, straightforward and trustworthy in dealing with them. How you behave when no one is watching is the best assessment of how you really are as a person.
Proverbs 19:1: Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is perverse in his speech and is a (self-confident) fool