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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism
A familiar story with a new sequel every two years, cheating Olympians, completely baffles me. Why are certain athletes willing to trade their integrity for an Olympic medal? Why are certain coaches and/or trainers willing to look the other way or even aid and abet? Don’t they realize that wearing a gold medal and being an Olympic champion are not equivalent? There is no victory in cheating.
“Winning is nice if you don’t lose your integrity in the process.” — attributed to Arnold Horshak, character in the television sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”
“…a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.” — from the Disney movie “Cool Runnings”
Playing by the rules is more than sportsmanship. It is a reflection of honesty: honesty toward others and honesty with one’s self. And isn’t honesty at the heart of integrity? There’s another integrity aspect: having and following a “moral compass.”
“Integrity means adopting a morally strong value system and having the honesty, courage and conviction to live and act within these values.” — Clancy Cross
This definition leads to two thoughts. First, integrity is an inside job, which means it’s a personal decision.
“We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.” — John C. Maxwell
“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.” — John C. Maxwell
Second, integrity is so important to building and maintaining relationships that a person’s greatest gift may be to live a life of integrity that inspires and encourages others to raise their standards and commitment to integrity. Ideally, an integrity foundation is built in the home during the formative childhood years and is forever nurtured by teachers, pastors, friends, colleagues and others.
“The reward for doing right is mostly an internal phenomenon: self-respect, dignity, integrity, and self- esteem.” — Dr. Laura Schlessinger
“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” — Bible, Proverbs 20:7
“The effect of one upright individual is incalculable.” — Oscar Arias
“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” — Socrates
This ideal picture of integrity breaks down because inevitably, moral and ethical principles will be violated. The realization that human perfection is unachievable is not a new revelation. So, how can there be integrity when everyone commits violations against his own principles? It would seem that the only logical alternative for avoiding universal hypocrisy is to adopt a personal philosophy devoid of moral principles. Some would say “moral relativism” is an attempt to do just that. (That’s a topic for another day.) Actually, the paradox dissolves when we fully understand the final piece of integrity.
“Honor isn’t about making the right choices. It’s about dealing with the consequences.” — Midori Koto
How does a person of integrity respond to his own moral failings? First, he makes a humble admission of and apology for the offense, totally free of excuses. Conversely, “I’m sorry I did it, but …” is hardly an effective confession. Second, the person of integrity takes ownership of the consequences and makes appropriate reparations. Finally, integrity demands a commitment to do better. After that, the rest is up to those who were offended. Will they forgive? Will they hold a grudge? Whatever the aggrieved party decides, a person of the highest integrity will accept the verdict with grace and move on.
Humility is what allows integrity to survive moral indiscretions. Even so, it’s important to realize that it takes more time to develop integrity than to destroy it and even more time to restore it when it is damaged. While Integrity has some room for errors, just one momentary indiscretion has the potential to be a major setback against a lifetime of progress. This implies that people serious about their integrity should behave as if any violation will destroy it and when necessary, respond with humility and urgency to restore it.
“Honor is like a steep island without a shore: one cannot return once one is outside.” — Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux
“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” — Thomas Paine, author, statesman
“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” — William Shakespeare
Life without integrity is a miserable and pathetic existence. So, in a sense, hanging on to integrity is a matter of life and death.
“What is left when honor is lost?” — Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims
“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
© Copyright September 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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