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The Meaning of Integrity: A Lifestyle Choices Series

Updated on June 30, 2013
Do we all have the same sense of morality?
Do we all have the same sense of morality? | Source
What must I do to be a man of integrity?
What must I do to be a man of integrity? | Source
Justifying one's actions is a slippery slope indeed and so easy to do.
Justifying one's actions is a slippery slope indeed and so easy to do. | Source
What may be moral for one person may not be for another; it's a bit of a foggy notion.
What may be moral for one person may not be for another; it's a bit of a foggy notion. | Source

There has been quite an uproar of late concerning the blatant theft of online articles by a company in India. Deplorable acts for sure, acts that I simply cannot comprehend. How does one justify that sort of action? What must they be thinking? How do they live with themselves?

All valid questions and those questions turned my thoughts to the subject of integrity. What is integrity? Well my good friend Webster defines integrity as: a steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. So far so good! Surely those who would plagiarize are not adhering to a strict moral or ethical code for there can be no doubt that plagiarism is theft and what moral code would include theft?

My mind then shifted to the number of times I have heard someone say that they know a person who is a man or woman of integrity. Using the definition from Webster I have to question just how many people are there who are truly people of integrity? Let’s take a little deeper look at this concept.

MORAL AND ETHICAL CODES VARY FROM PERSON TO PERSON, DON’T THEY?

What is good for the goose may not be good for the gander, or so my grandmother believed. What she meant when she uttered those words is that not all people have the same moral code and I believe that to be true. There are places in this world where young girls of thirteen are still sold into marriage arrangements and it is a perfectly acceptable part of that culture. Are the parents who are selling their daughters people of integrity? If they are living in a culture where that type of action is accepted does that make it an action of integrity? We are in a pretty gray area when we talk about a strict moral code because that requires a definition of a specific moral code and that is a subjective issue.

My concept of a strict moral code differs considerably with many who live in Iran as it does with many who live in China, Cuba, Kenya or Borneo simply because what is moral or ethical in one culture may not be in another. That begs the question of why? Why is the concept of morality different depending on the culture? What is morality?

THE ISSUE OF MORALITY

Again I turn to the dictionary and there I find an interesting definition of morality: a complex of principles based on cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which an individual determines whether his or her actions are right or wrong.

Well now we have a rather sticky wicket don’t we, for if morality does indeed depend on the cultural, philosophical and religious beliefs then by extension morality changes depending on where you live. Can it be that some actions like murder, rape and theft are acceptable and thereby moral in some cultures and thus those who would do those actions are still people of integrity? I would never marry my sister or first cousin and yet I have no doubt it happens in some rural areas of the United States. Are those who would marry blood kin people of integrity? Am I standing on higher moral ground simply because I do not believe in that practice? Is it possible that to steal the writings of another person is morally acceptable? We obviously have a problem of definition and if we have such a problem then how are we expected to all get along with each other? How can I expect someone else to live by a moral standard that I have set? Is there no common ground on which we can agree so as to establish a morality we can all live by?

MY GUIDING LIGHT WITH REGARDS TO MORALITY AND THUS INTEGRITY

I live by a pretty simple code: treat others as I would like to be treated. There is no wiggle room in this code of mine, no gray area where debate can be fostered. If I am treating others in a manner that I would consider unacceptable if it were done to me then I am not a man of integrity. I cannot under any circumstances justify stealing from another human being. I cannot under any circumstances justify cheating in marriage. I cannot under any circumstances justify hurting someone’s feelings or demeaning them; to do so lessens them and lessens me and thus makes me less than a man of integrity.

When I am rude to another person I am acting against my code of morals. When I get even with someone for an injustice they did to me I am acting against my code of morals. When I cheat on my taxes or shoplift a candy bar or lie about the condition of the car I am selling then I am acting against my code of morals.

But what of others who would do what I consider to be immoral acts against me simply because they consider those acts to be acceptable? Maybe in India there are some people who feel it is alright to steal the literary work of another. Maybe these were acts of people of integrity and I simply do not understand their culture. Well I say bullshi_ to that! If we use my simple code as a basis by which to judge all actions then it is impossible to conclude that it is alright to steal the writings of another for no one would want that done to them. If we use my code when considering paying for a child prostitute then there is no culture in the world where that would be acceptable because no one would want their own child sold for sex. Again, I see no wiggle room in this. I have struggled for years over the issue of slavery that has littered the history of the United States. My historical mind understands to a certain degree that when slavery was at its peak in this country that slaves were looked upon as labor implements and nothing more, simply tools to use in doing a job. However, my rational and moral mind reasons that standing before that slave owner were human beings, breathing, breeding, functional human beings and as such should never have been owned or treated with indignity. So, because it was an acceptable practice at the time were the slave owners men and women of integrity?

MAYBE THERE ARE DEGREES OF INTEGRITY?

Now we are approaching some serious moral quicksand. If a man or woman has dedicated their lives to the betterment of humanity and yet choose to have affairs outside of their marriage are they people of integrity? On the one hand their public actions are helping millions of people; on the other hand they are breaking their marriage vows. Where does integrity begin and end in that scenario? As a teacher of eighteen years I have helped hundreds of children over the years and made a difference in their lives. If I were to cheat on my taxes year in and year out am I still a man of integrity? If any of you out there have dedicated your adult years to caring for your crippled parent and yet you steal groceries on a regular basis are you a person of integrity?

IS THERE REALLY AN ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION?

If there were an integrity scale with 0 being the lowest scum of the earth and 10 being a candidate for sainthood I’m guessing most of us would be somewhere in-between those two extremes. I would love to think that most would score 5 or above but I’m just cynical enough to doubt that possibility. We are, after all, just human beings and as such we are imperfect to the extreme and rarely predictable. My own personal belief is that most of us have a degree of integrity; how much of a degree is up to each individual because it all comes down to choice.

I have told you my basic moral code. Yes, it is based on the culture I live in and philosophies and religious beliefs that I have been subjected to, but more than that it is based on a fundamental belief that all men are created equal and as such should be treated as equals and any action of mine that upsets that equality is an immoral action and thus diminishes my integrity. I have heard it said that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and although that pre-supposes a life force in each of us that will continue after our earthly journey it is still a fairly good description of why we struggle with regards to integrity. I believe that each of us has an unlimited capacity for good when we are born but that capacity is severely limited as we go on to live our lives. In the end, when the tally has been made, our level of integrity will be determined by the number of times we chose to set limits on our own good nature.

2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)

To order my Lifestyle Choices book on Kindle go to:

http://www.amazon.com/Lifestyle-Choices-ebook/dp/B007ZV9G2U/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1336064586&sr=1-3

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for visiting Leslie!

    • profile image

      leslie 4 years ago

      leslie

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dancilla, so nice to see you! Thank you very much!

    • Dancilla profile image

      Priscilla 5 years ago from El Paso

      Very good topic. Integrity is very important all through life whether it is with our friends or mainly even at work. Thanks for a great hub!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jools, perhaps that was my real reason for writing it. None of us are perfect, we all fall short of perfect integrity, so maybe it would be nice if many out there did not point fingers at others. I think subconsciously that was what I was trying to relay. Thank you as always for being you!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      How did I miss this one a week ago? I must have got 'delete happy' on Hotmail last week. Integrity is a tricky subject indeed. I'm sure most of us try to do the right thing most of the time but human nature is brittle under some pressures. Interesting, thought provoking hub Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jlava, perfect in our imperfection...and I kind of like it that way. Thank you my friend.

    • Jlava73 profile image

      Jennifer Vasconcelos 5 years ago from Cyberspace and My Own World

      Hi Billy,

      I agree with your assessment, that we are all human after all and rarely predictable. Very thought provoking Hub!

    • Hippie-Girl profile image

      Janelle 5 years ago from Oklahoma, USA

      Agreed! :D

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have a soft spot in my heart for tree huggers so you keep doing what you are doing and hopefully as a society we will embrace more trees and stop this trend of rape the Earth first and ask questions later.

    • Hippie-Girl profile image

      Janelle 5 years ago from Oklahoma, USA

      I try not to stand "against" anything, really, just more find a middle way, but I am a bit of a tree hugger :) I look forward to reading more of yours as well, thanks.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well Hippie, I'm glad you enjoyed it and welcome to HubPages! I look forward to reading some of your hubs soon. I see the name Hippie and I smile; back in the 60's I had hair down to my butt and was quite proud of my stance against the Establishment. Anyway, thank you!

    • Hippie-Girl profile image

      Janelle 5 years ago from Oklahoma, USA

      Very unique topic, I liked it. Thanks for the insight :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jenu, it is almost a full-time job keeping myself on the proper path. Not sure I could steer other people in the right direction. :) You are a very kind lady and I'm glad we are forming a friendship.

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      jenubouka 5 years ago

      Awesome article billy, I admire your words of wisdom and insight on a difficult subject to write about. To live with integrity should be a mindful step in everyday walks of life and we are reminded of those who chose not to do so. I think the bigger question is, do you have enough to spread to those who do not.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sue, that is an interesting turn of words that your facilitator used and I'm not sure I agree with them, or at least I don't like his wording. How are we to know how someone wants to be treated? It's an impossible task if you ask me, but who would not want to be treated as we want to be treated? Thank you for your words.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruth, I know the passage you are referring to and those are excellent words. Thank you for joining me on my journey and may we both find continued happiness which we so surely deserve.

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      Sueswan 5 years ago

      Hi Billy,

      You have given us food for thought. I don't think we as human's act with integrity 100% of time but it is something we should all be striving for.

      I agree that we should treat each others the way we would like to be treated.

      I attended a workshop through work where the facilitator disagreed with this statement. He said that we should treat each others how they wanted to be treated. What I want is not necessarily what someone else wants. The introvert in me just kept quiet. I think the facilitator took the statement out of context. After all, who wouldn't want to be treated with kindness and respect?

      Voted up and away!

    • ruthclark3 profile image

      Ruth Clark 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Billy Buc, on p. 542 of the Third Edition of the Big Book, in the story "He Who Loses His Life," is this:

      "I have seen that there is only one law, the law of love, and there are only two sins; the first is to interfere with the growth of another human being, and the second is to interfere with one's own growth."

      God bless.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sonya, you are special to me. I'm not sure I could describe why since we have never met nor probably ever will, but still there is something...your opinions mean a great deal to me and in you I find a person of similar values....anyway, I just wanted you to know that I respect who you are and appreciate your friendship.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Maggs, thank you. It really should not be difficult, should it? Why do we complicate life so much? Just treat people with respect! How tough is that? Thank you for reading; you are appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vegas, thank you! Unfortunately this is worldwide and not just India or Europe or America. The concept of moral behavior is being lost in the fast-paced world we live in; everyone looking out for themselves no matter the cost to human dignity. Thank you for your meaningful comment.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tams, thank you! I like your last thought..."it really shouldn't be so difficult to determine right or wrong, should it?"...No, my friend, it shouldn't be! I'm glad you are back and I hope things are better for you; enjoy your Sunday.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Minnetonka, thank you! The incident that you related is shocking and so hard for me to fathom. I observe we humans and I'm blown away by our capacity for hideous acts and loving acts. How could members of the same species be so diverse in our approach to life? Thank you for sharing that and as always for visiting. Have a very Happy Easter.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      B. Leekley, wise words from Cayce and I appreciate you sharing them. Thank you, Sir, for stopping by and leaving a meaningful comment that others can learn by or which at least stimulates thought.

    • Sonya L Morley profile image

      Sonya L Morley 5 years ago from Edinburgh

      Another thought-provoking hub, well done! Whilst reading it I came to the conclusion that, in my opinion, it all boils down to judgement. Judging someone as having integrity or not, as having morals or not, they are all personal judgements, so you are absolutely right when you say that it depends entirely on your cultural background. Brilliant, I like reading hubs which make me think! The song is one of my favorites too.

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this hub and I like your take on it very much. I think your personal credo is a great one to live by 'I live by a pretty simple code: treat others as I would like to be treated. '

      A good recipe for living a rich and productive life with integrity

      Voting up and hitting some of the buttons on my way out :D

    • Vegas Elias profile image

      Vegas Elias 5 years ago from Mumbai

      Hi, yes this happens in India and all over the world. I have to agree with you that I live in a country where the scale of integrity is very low. I sometimes feel I am born in the wrong country because I was educated in a Convent School where Catholic Nuns and Priests imbibed in us very high levels of moral behavior. However when, after finishing my education I was faced with the world here, I found that low moral integrity was the order of the day; This does lead to mental frustration and makes me avoid people. Its a very big topic needing lot of thinking. I vote you up for this.

    • Tams R profile image

      Tams R 5 years ago from Missouri

      Complex thinking Bill. I feel in touch with your own moral code. I simply believe you must treat others the way you wish to be treated.

      Sadly, this world is made of all kinds of people who do not agree.

      I guess that is why some people question a man's integrity because it is of each man's (or woman's) own making.

      It really shouldn't be so difficult to determine right or wrong; should it?!

      Great article for deep thinking. Nice read.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Timely that I should read this great hub tonight. I just finished watching "48 hours murder mystery" which was about a father who killed his daughter in the name of saving honor in his family. Where is this father's integrity when his daughter was killed because he said she was too westernized and not acting the way he liked in their culture. Thanks for a very important hub that really gets you thinking. I too have never understood how slavery could be tolerated. It makes me sick! I hit many buttons here.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      That's a good, thoughtful and thought-provoking hub. I like the teaching of Edgar Cayce to write down your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ideals and do your best to live up to them. He said it is better to guide yourself by foolish or immature ideals than by none at all. Those with none are like corks on the ocean, with no direction, whereas those going on a wrong path might learn from experience and revise their ideals. For instance, someone whose ideal is being clever enough to get away with theft and plagiarism might come to realize that is foolish and choose instead the ideal of honesty. Cayce said that the process of choosing ideals, striving to live by them, and occasionally reexamining them is how we develop the faculty of free will. Integrity in that framework is how consistently a person lives up to his or her own ideals and earnestly reconsiders them now and then. Or another definition might be that living with integrity means listening to your conscience.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Always, I completely agree with you about slave owners. I have tried for years to find an intellectual way to justify their actions but there simply is none.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and as always I greatly appreciate you. Have a wonderful holiday weekend filled with happiness.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      There is no way that a southern plantation owner thought it was ok to buy and sell people like cattle, just as there is no way anyone could steal articles written by someone else and lay claim to them. I know that in some cultures, they practice acts contrary to my beliefs, that's why 'The golden rule' is prevalent here. Do unto others as you would have them do to you, which is exactly what you said, treat others like you want to be treated. If we all would do this the world would be a better place. Thank you..I enjoyed reading your hub...

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Angie, thank you! Wasn't that a great video? I stumbled upon it and love it.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Thanks for shining a light on this subject, billy ... well done.

      Especially loved the vid ... good to see all those old critters looking so well ... even ol' Slowhand.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruth, I love your comment and would love to read that book if you can pass along the name of it. Thank you for sharing and taking the time to read my work.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      John, excellent insights and I agree with you, it is hard to stay steadfast in today's society. So many things I once thought would never be acceptable are now considered the norm. All I can do is walk the path I believe to be right and hope that others join me. Thank you, Sir, for your great comment.

    • ruthclark3 profile image

      Ruth Clark 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      A vote up, Billy. Somewhere, and I don't remember the source, I read something that went like this, "I believe there are only two sins. One is when I obstruct the spiritual growth of another and the second is when I obstruct the growth of myself."

      I have looked through a couple of books, but hurriedly, so I can't give you the author, but when I think of it, any act against my "brother" violates my integrity; and, any act that obstructs my search for my own growth is likewise wrong.

      This is an extreme simplification but makes sense to me. When I treat others as I want to be treated then we both are blessed and my integrity is reinforced.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Excellent article billybuc. It's hard to stay steadfast and benevolent admist moral decay. I try my best as I'm sure you do. As far as people sleeping at night, what makes you think they do?....

      Voted up on your wonderful article

      John

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tara, don't blow up! That would be messy!:) But I agree completely with your comment. Thank you for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend!

    • tarajeyaram profile image

      tarajeyaram 5 years ago from Wonderland

      Very engaging hub and well written. Integrity should be applied to all things. It is silly that some people say they live by integrity and not follow it. I just feel like blowing up. Voted up and sharing. Very nice hub!

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      Flattered, Mr. Buc!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Radhikasree, thank you so much for sharing. I truly believe that many, many people believe they are people of integrity but if you watched their actions you would question their sanity for believing that. Integrity should go across the whole spectrum of who we are and not just in bits and pieces when we choose. I appreciate you stopping by and peace and happiness to you this weekend.

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 5 years ago from Mumbai,India

      I learned more about integrity from this hub. If integrity and moral values were important, why there are so many evil incidents occuring in this world today? Those who are sitting on the top levels have to purify their minds first, I think.

      Up and useful. Sharing with my friends here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Karen, I will keep doing what I'm doing and look forward to you doing the same. You are a straight-shooter and I respect that greatly. I do not give out respect quickly or often; people have to earn it and you, my dear, have earned it with your words.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey Cyndi my friend! I'm glad you are back. I've never traveled abroad so I have no reference point. I do know that we all need to find it within ourselves to judge less and understand more. Thank you my dear; I'm hoping you didn't talk yourself out of a major life change while you were on vacation.

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      Billybuc - You are yourself a "guiding light of integrity"! In a world where i see integrity as a motivator less and less - i find it more and more right here on the pages of 'the hub' - and in the hearts and souls of 'Hubsters'. This place renews my faith in man/womankind! You lead on, sir!

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      I like your phrase: sticky wicket. Hehe.I also completely agree: the moral code of one person differs from another. Indeed, it's a slippery slope that gets steeper with gray issues. I have often thought about living in other countries; indeed, I have many friends who have done so. Most of them, though, end up back here. When I've traveled abroad, I'm always sorely aware of my own cultural values and I perceive other cultures through my own cultural values. It's entirely fascinating to learn about how other people do things; I always try to be respectful. But, after a long trip abroad, it's always nice to come back to my comfort zone. Fun discussion, though. :) Oh, and great 101st article.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you my dear; I hope it will have meaning for your kids when they read it. Have a great Easter weekend!

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      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Very nice Bill...I need to have my children read this when they get a bit older:)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mark, thank you my friend! It is a puzzling subject, one I have thought about often, and as of yet I have no definitive answers. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Have a great weekend buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Teaches, unfortunately I have more questions than answers on this subject, but it is worth discussion at the very least. Thank you as always and have a great weekend in sunny Florida!

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      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      This is extremely well written Bill, and as Saundra said, a difficult topic to address. You have done an exemplary job of bringing up the issue, presented important questions and provided much information for thought!

      Well done.

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      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I forgot about this song and enjoyed hearing the message. Integrity is a virtue worthy of pursuing, unfortunately some people do hold this a lofty goal. Last semester I taught Ethics to college students and it was the most difficult class I have ever faced. Their morals are surprising, but after a few sessions they were able to grasp what it really meant to make ethical decisions. Our world is redefining integrity due to the standards and examples set by our present cultural outlooks. Voted up!

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sandra, I can only speak for myself but I know for a fact it is a struggle for this boy. Thank you for stopping by my friend.

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      Sandra Busby 5 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      Ah, you have indeed chosen a difficult topic. One that I think we must all struggle with on a daily basis to keep ourselves honest. Nice job.