Integrity- A Grossly Underrated Virtue

Saturdays With Shivani

Courage– when we hear this word what’s the first image our mind conjures? That of a weapon yielding warrior, something on the lines of a gladiator. Why is bravery equated with physical courage only? How often do we tell our kids and each other to be brave and by that we mean to wipe our tears, swallow our pain and gather ourselves to fight back?

Not many talk about moral courage; our integrity, which I have come to believe is a rare and a far more difficult trait to acquire and retain than its physical counterpart. Somewhere deep down we always know what’s the right thing to do but the hard part often is to actually do it. That requires integrity.

Why is it so tough?

Integrity is non-negotiable; it is honesty in 24×7 mode. It’s a tightrope to walk on especially when the stakes are too high. Quite a few choose to toe the line than upholding their conscience. When you stand for the right thing, often you are on your own. Not only is it a lonely spot but often it isn’t a likeable one either. Isn’t it convenient to look the other way than standing up to a bully? How many of us would rather stay in the good books of our bosses than choosing to confront them? Or a much simpler question, haven’t we all been tempted to ignore the stop signal and zip through when there’s no one around? Integrity is doing the right thing all the time even (especially) when no one is watching.

What’s the incentive when you may be the only one to know of your integrity?

When you know you have done the right thing it feels good. I’m sure most of us can still savour that taste on our palettes from the last time we had experienced it. One feels lighter, sleeps easier and walks straighter. Integrity is the only thing which cannot be quantified or bought out.

You may not be the most popular person in the room but a trade-off with respect sounds better, doesn’t it? Grudgingly in the beginning, respect definitely follows for those who listen to their inner voice and stay true to themselves. People understand and acknowledge high moral standards.

As your brand equity develops so does the trust factor of the people you are surrounded with, personally or professionally. Those of us who shrug at the words trust and credibility underestimate the value of integrity. It is one of the most sought-after traits in the world of corporate hiring. I’m not the one who said that. Warren Buffett does and I quote him-In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.

Not just the ones who hire us but also the ones who work for us or with us, come to trust us over time. Integrity is the bedrock of marriage and any friendship. People who have a high quotient of integrity go on to become the role models that our society needs. Even if we may not have those lofty goals cut out for us, we often have children in our lives who look up to us. How we are judged by them would be a matter of concern for me. If you are still looking for reasons, here’s what Mark Twain says in his inimitable style- Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

I choose simple words to speak my mind so as a final argument let me borrow the words of Immanuel Kant who said, “Do the right thing because it is right.”

I rest my case.

Dr. Shivani Salil