Given a moment of reflection, most would agree we should keep values in mind while living our daily lives. Integrity is, after all, matching our actions with a set of values. Do you agree that it is reasonable to keep the following values in mind as we live our lives: Loyalty, honesty, justice, fairness, peace, love, kindness? Perhaps you may try to live by the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Nietzsche stated that convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies. What did he mean? Loyalty may be your primary value, but who or what are you loyal to? What if you discover that your “leader” or supervisor is dishonest and expects you to go along with the lie? What if you may lose your job if you speak the truth? Which is more important? Do you stay loyal to the person or organization, do you keep your job or are you honest and speak up. The value you prize determines your action.
What do you say when Aunt Tilda gives you a garish Christmas present? Are you honest and say you hate it ? Or do you accept graciously and say it is very special and thank her profusely? If you tell a “white” lie to avoid hurting Auntie’s feelings you choose the Golden Rule over honesty.
What if your acquaintance doesn’t want to be treated the same way you do? Perhaps a person believes the cost of a gift corresponds to the amount of love received while you believe that time together is the measure of your love for each other. Do you buy them an expensive gift or do you spend time with them? In that instance, love and time spent together is more valuable to you than the Golden Rule.
Fairness and equity are often confused. Is it fair to treat every child the same or is it fair to treat each person according to their personalities, skills and abilities? One child may demand more of your attention because they are disabled and another child may simply be more emotionally needy. Would you give each child the same time and attention or would you put more time and energy on the neediest? Would some kind of compromise be fair to each child, not to mention your own self needs?
Is it possible to have peace without justice or justice without peace? When inevitable disagreements occur in a relationship, do you continue to argue until you “win” or at least have the last word or is it more important to stop arguing so as to maintain peace in your home? Do you believe that compromise is weakness or is striving for a win/win a just goal? When is it appropriate to fight for what you want, or when is peace more important?
What is your definition of success? Again, your answer will reveal your true values. Do you measure success by how much money you make? Are you successful if your children are happy and healthy? Do you believe that unless you cure cancer or invent a life-saving device you ultimately fail in life? Do you feel successful if you help others but your paycheck doesn’t quite last until the next pay day? What is more important, money, being of service to others or tangible, measurable achievements?
There isn’t one correct answer to any of the above questions or situations. To maintain your integrity, identify which value you prioritize and the correct path will become clear.
Ellen Grant is a retired associate warden of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She lives in Lodi.
This article originally appeared on The Record: Guest view: Integrity = matching your actions with your values