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Are We Losing Our Personal Integrity?

Updated on September 20, 2017
wilderness profile image

Dan has long been interested in politics, particularly in the field of ethics, and has served his community in the past.

The Changing Concept of Personal Integrity

It seems that the very concept of personal integrity is changing in our modern world, and not for the better. Our leaders do not seem to understand the very idea of personal integrity, truth or honesty. Our role models lead lives that often have little connection to ethical standards espoused by the rest of us, breaking rules and laws for fun or profit as they see fit. Theft is off the charts to the point that most cases are never even investigated by police; personal integrity does seem to include the thought of not taking what is not yours.

Personal integrity is a simple concept, though there are many facets to the phenomena. As our integrity is breaking down all around us, it might behoove us to try to understand it a little better. Lets look at just a few cases and try to understand what is happening and why.

Butch Cassidy, Bank Robber

Butch Cassidy, circa 1900
Butch Cassidy, circa 1900 | Source

A lie about to happen

Little Jack Horner will surely lie about whose thumb got into the pie.
Little Jack Horner will surely lie about whose thumb got into the pie. | Source

A Lying Epidemic?

Telling the truth is an integral part of personal integrity, but it would seem that lying has become as common as the air we exhale today. The joke of "How do you tell when a politician is lying? - when their lips are open" has too much truth in it to be a joke. The leaders of our country tell us anything they feel will get our votes regardless of how tenuous a connection it has to reality. The recent outburst during President Obama's speech proclaiming him to be a liar was certainly out of place, but it is far past time to call our leaders on their lying. Believing in the integrity or honesty of a politician is impossible when every word from their mouth must be thoroughly investigated to be sure there is even a grain of truth in it. This seems to have always been a problem, but also seems to be getting worse as the years pass.

Business advertisements are, at their root, a lie. They are intended solely to convince a possible customer that a particular product is necessary for that customer and, like the politician, an ad will say and show anything necessary to promote that purchase. What seems to have changed is that instead of calling it a lie we now call it a clever marketing strategy as if a fancy name will somehow change the lie itself to something else but it doesn't - it is still a loss of honesty. Truth in advertising laws are a joke - information necessary for an informed decision is hidden in small print for a reason, and that reason is deceit. To present part of the truth is not truth at all, and does not promote any of the personal integrity lacking in the ad designer.

Nor is the art of lying left out of our daily lives - our own integrity seems to now include the idea that it is OK to lie. We not only make the little "white lies" ("Honey, does this make my butt look big?") on a daily basis, we continue to add to the idea of just what constitutes a white lie. We demand that other people tell us these same lies as we don't want the truth, just a compliment. We lie to our spouses about what we spend and who we are with to "prevent a fight" or some other trumped up reason. Do we really need to lie to our own family members to keep the peace? Just what kind of honesty are we showing when we act wrongly then lie about it to prevent controversy?

Small children lie all the time, but we're supposed to grow out of that with the growth of our own personal integrity. It just seems that growing out of it doesn't happen anymore - we just continue to lie and accept more and more that because others lie we can too. It really does impact strongly on that concept of integrity though, destroying it from our own intentional actions.

Open Doors Are a No-No

Why can't we leave a door open at night for a little breeze?
Why can't we leave a door open at night for a little breeze? | Source

Theft Comes in Many Forms

Most of us with any personal integrity at all would never steal; it is an affront to the very idea of our own ethics. Yet theft has become rampant in our society and takes all kinds of forms.

Shoplifting is often considered to be OK - the big company or an insurance company will pay for it. We frequently hear of our role models, in the form of movie stars or other people with absolutely no need to shoplift, being caught shoplifting. The excuse is a "compulsion" to steal; nonsense! The theft is performed for the simple thrill of it, and is rooted in a very lack of personal integrity, yet these are the same people we look up to and, in too many cases, emulate.

As a child, we never locked our doors at home and the only problem we ever had was a neighborhood 4 year old that wandered in once and consumed a bottle of vitamin B-12. Can you imagine leaving your home unlocked today? Not a chance - the lack of personal integrity of far too many of our citizenry will dictate that they simply take what they want from anywhere they can get it. What has happened? Is it because our own theft of a writing pen from the bank or a piece of candy from the bulk foods bin at the grocery store does not go unnoticed by our children? Either one is theft, but our integrity has become so low that we now accept such theft as OK and our children take notice and build on our own thievery.

Theft can also happen in the workplace - it is all too common to arrive late to work and expect to be paid anyway. It is, in no uncertain terms, theft from the employer but we do it anyway. Some people make such a habit of it that they lose an hour or more each week, neither realizing nor caring that their own integrity is compromised each time they do it.

I would hope that none of my readers would rob a bank, but what about these smaller thefts? Is your own personal integrity high enough to stop you? Or do you feel that small thefts are OK (especially, maybe, if inadvertent like the pen at the bank) and just forget about it? I assure you that it is not OK - it can be the beginning of the crumbling of your integrity.

Is Minor Theft OK?

You have made a bank depost and inadvertently walked out with the bank's pen. Will you

See results

Fulfilling the Commitment

Grandpa agreed to play with his granddaughter and follows through.
Grandpa agreed to play with his granddaughter and follows through. | Source

I'm a Man of My Word

How many times have we heard or used that phrase? Again, certainly a part of our personal integrity, but are we truly a man (or woman) of our word? Do we always follow through on promises or agreements, or just the ones that are easy, or that we later decide we like?

The mortgage crises in the country is a case in point - thousands upon thousands of people agreed to pay for a house, only to decide later that the terms of their contract weren't "fair" somehow and demanded that interest rates be lowered or payments deferred as they are too high. Others refuse to make any payment at all, while refusing to move out either. We deplore the bank charges for overdrawn accounts as "unreasonable" or "unfair", and do our best to get out of them and complain to the world when we can't. But these are the same fees that we agreed to pay! Where is the personal integrity in refusing to honor a contract we agreed to?

How many times have you been stood up for a date (romantic or otherwise) because the other party changed their mind and didn't want to meet? Their word wasn't worth much, and yours won't be, either, if you decide to ignore such meetings. How many times have you used the words "I'll call you" with no intention whatsoever of making such a call? Real integrity, there! Or is it just another "white lie" to avoid an unpleasant conversation?

One of our largest failures here is the failure to fulfill our marriage commitments. Most marriage ceremonies include some kind of commitment prohibiting infidelity, but most people seem to conveniently forget that commitment whenever the urge to stray hits them. Somehow their personal integrity permits them to ignore commitments they no longer like for......I guess I don't know for what. Whatever it is, though, it isn't worth the loss of their integrity.

If you are to make commitments your integrity requires that you fulfill those commitments, whether they be to a child to play with them or a written formal contract or anything in between. To even fail to fulfill the commitment on time simply because you couldn't be bothered to make sure you were on time impacts your integrity and again can be the beginnings of failure.

Final Thoughts

Our integrity is tied inextricably to our ethical and moral structure, but it does not define that structure. Instead it is our commitment to our ethics and morals, whether self defined or defined by religion, society or politics, that is the driving force behind our integrity. Ethics and morals differ between individuals, but if we ignore our own ethics in favor of personal gain in some manner we have not only lost our morality to some degree but we have lost our commitment to that morality; we have lost our integrity. Without integrity we have no need of morals or ethics; we won't follow the guidelines of that morality anyway, and that is what we stand to lose by letting our integrity fail. We know that stealing is wrong, but our commitment to that particular ethical stance, our integrity, fails us when the theft is small. Likewise, "white lies" are accepted morally, especially if for the good of someone else, but continual usage has expanded that to the point that anything we want to lie about is also accepted as necessary, or for someone else's good. We have lost our personal integrity there almost totally. Let's not lose the rest of it as well.

© 2010 Dan Harmon


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    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      9 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Yes, people could learn, but will they?

      The ones that are honest enough with themselves to examine their own thoughts and actions very well may. Those that are not most certainly won't learn. That's life; I can but hope to shake people enough to look hard at themselves.

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 

      9 years ago from Virginia

      Great Hub Wilderness, I think people could learn a lot from this (and the comments)

    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      9 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I think you're correct in that there was no real animosity here; no real attempt to hurt. Just a desire for attention. There is no previous conversation or disagreement with the hub, just a silly comment out of the blue.

      There SHOULD be thoughts of the consequences of such a thing, though - that there probably isn't is an indication that s/he doesn't care. An indication that the moral standards of the poster are sadly lacking.

    • dungeonraider profile image

      Jason Marovich 

      9 years ago from United States

      Gamers that have played games with live chat understand what you're talking about. In most cases, rude comments are made to get attention. You're right, any thoughts of integrity or injury caused were never given a consideration. In most cases.

    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      9 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Maturity and age are surely common factors, and you may well be right that it comes from some poor kid (no matter the physiological age) with a problem.

      Even so, however, that person knows better. They know that what they are posting is a lie and could be hurtful, and that says something about the morality of the poster. Is it just a random and rare event or is it indicative of what we are allowing to happen to ourselves?

    • dungeonraider profile image

      Jason Marovich 

      9 years ago from United States

      Maturity, and even age, are common factors for posts aimed at harming other people. Like the post that will soon be gone, made above wilderness', you get the feeling some poor kid with a problem got on the computer.

    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      9 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      As the internet becomes more and more a part of our lives it is interesting to note that our personal integrity takes a step backwards. We can say things and make statements that have little regard for truth or honesty, recognizing that we can never be caught (although that is not strictly true). It isn't necessary to maintain our integrity and honesty; no one will ever know. Unfortunately, it is but another step down the road to losing what little integrity we might have left every time we do such things; WE know who made the statement, even if no one else does.

      Intentionally offensive statements are a dime a dozen, and few people take them at face value any more. Rather we recognize, as Tusitala Tom comments above, that such comments are far more likely to be a reflection on the life and integrity of the poster than on the target of their venom.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      wilderness probably got beat up as a child sure judge everyone but yourself because your perfect F.A.G.E.T

    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      10 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I really think it is far more important to maintain our personal integrity than most people think. Were it otherwise, we wouldn't have the problems of rampant lying, thievery, and so one.

      So many people just don't seem to care what they have degenerated to - "Everyone is doing it" seems to mean it's OK. It's not.

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen Lewis 

      10 years ago from Florida

      Great hub on this very important topic - thank you.

    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      10 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Thank you for the comment - I hope you found it useful.

    • rabiemahamad profile image


      10 years ago

      hi dear how are you

      Thank you I liked your great work

    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      10 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      A very good point and, I think, so very true. We judge the world as we are ourselves and it becomes in our mind as we are. In that manner we make the world ourselves whether it be good or bad. It is something to remember - that we are unique and not always as other people are, nor are they as we are.

    • Tusitala Tom profile image

      Tom Ware 

      10 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Excellent Hub, Wilderness. So many people fail to realize that they judge the world by the way they, themselves act. A thief lives in a world where no one is trustworthy; an honest man regards most othes as honest. In this, we create our own hells or heavens.

    • Rafini profile image


      11 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

      Well said!

    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      11 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Maybe it is a lost cause - sometimes it seems so. Nevertheless by continuing to fight we also maintain our own sense of integrity and pride in what we are and stand for.

      And as you say, your comment here also gives me hope that there are some left that are willing to put forth the effort to maintain their own integrity and provide an example.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      We have to start teaching it to others by setting an example. While at times it seems like a lost cause, I will keep on trying to do otherwise means the unethical and immoral have won and that just won't do!

      Thanks so much for sharing this, it helps give me hope that there are others out there!

    • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Harmon 

      11 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Raisingme: You have a very good point on not calling our leaders on their dishonesty; to do so would require that we confront our own dishonesty first, and we don't want to do that.

      Joni: You're right - it doesn't take long to crumble further when we let a little bit go. We have done so as a culture and as Raisingme points out, the result is that we can't seem to get it back together again without more effort than we are willing to put out.

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 

      11 years ago

      Excellent! It sure doesn't take long once you toss out a little bit of integrity for the rest to follow.

    • raisingme profile image


      11 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Well done! Integrity demands the highest truth and ideals while dishonesty demands that we fail to deliver what we've promised to deliver. When we break promises to ourselves and others we degrade our own and others' existence. When the integrity of a structure is compromised it is in danger of collapsing. It is no different for an individual and the society one lives in. Getting our integrity and our ethics in on ourselves and others is the only way to turn things around,whether it be our relationships, our economy, our education system, or our governments. We allow our leaders to get away with being dishonest only because we cannot or will not confront our own areas of dishonesty.

      The topic of your hub and the points you raise within it are well worth writing about - Thank YOU!


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