If I only do the right thing when it is easy, is that truly integrity? There were times in my life I considered myself a man of integrity, but I truly only did the right thing when I had nothing to lose.
Doing the right thing is easy if I have nothing at risk, but is that truly integrity or is it just the path of least resistance? When my integrity is challenged, I am really choosing between two things: Compromise or Consequences.
The Choice That Determines My Integrity
I have choices every day. Some of those choices are easier than others: Paper or plastic. Cole slaw or potato salad. Coke or Pepsi. None of these choices have moral implications or a lasting impact on who I am as a person.
But when I have to choose between doing the right thing or the wrong thing, I am actually choosing between Compromise and Consequences. That choice shapes who I am, and the legacy I leave behind for others.
I am either choosing to compromise my integrity by taking an easier path with less risk and a more placid future. Or if I act with integrity, I am choosing to face the potential consequences that could make life uncomfortable for a period of time.
When I choose to my own comfort or convenience instead of stepping forward and risking the consequences, I am compromising the one thing in life I have 100% control over – MY INTEGRITY.
Integrity Is Not Easy
“If doing the right thing were easy, everyone would be doing it.” – my Dad
Each time I make a choice, it makes it easier to make that choice again in the future. Each time I choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, it is easier to make that choice the next time.
That is how habits are formed, one decision at a time. It is how an average guy like me separates himself from the rest, and becomes a man of integrity.
I go further on developing Character Habits in the following blog: Buzzword Defined (Part 2): Integrity
The best things in life are never attained without hard work and some discomfort. My integrity is wholly mine. No one can give it to me and no one can take it away from me. But I must work hard and make tough choices in order to be called a person of integrity.
If I am willing to compromise my integrity just because of a little discomfort, inconvenience or pain, then I need to rethink how I think about myself. I am not a person of integrity, I am someone who takes the least path of resistance in favor of an easier life.
It helps me to think about how I want my children to remember me. What legacy am I leaving in their minds?
Dad was always willing to the right thing as long as it was the easy thing to do.
Dad stood up and did the right thing even if it could have cost him personally.
The Bottom Line:
Everyday, I have to make choices between compromising my integrity or facing the consequences of choosing my integrity. Some days the consequences are small so the decision to do the right thing is easy. But on the rare days the consequences are truly large, all the previous small integrity tests I faced will prepare me for the big challenge.
I must be in the habit of ignoring the voice in my head that tells me to take the easy way out in those smaller challenges, so my habit of integrity will prepare me for the bigger challenges in life that are sure to come.
Living with integrity is hard. That is why so few people actually do it well. Acting with integrity when I have nothing to lose is not integrity – it is pragmatism. I want to live my life to a higher standard than pragmatism.
Which tombstone would you rather have:
Here lies Dave Anderson a really pragmatic guy.
Here lies Dave Anderson a true man of integrity.
What consequence most often prevent people from doing the right thing?