Integrity, Stories, and Deliberateness


“I’m an honest person and have always thought of myself as having integrity. I mean, relatively speaking. I mean I’m not honest all the time and sometimes I veer from my values and beliefs; but compared to some other people I know, I have much more integrity.”

Ah! herein lies the core of today’s post. My quote is a story I tell myself to rationalize my shortcomings in the area of integrity and honesty. The minute I start comparing myself to others, I am abandoning my own accountability for integrity. The minute I say I have integrity “BUT”, I am moving away from integrity.

My definition of integrity is ‘acting in alignment with my beliefs and values’. If I value honesty and then I cheat on my taxes, pad my resume, exaggerate my accomplishments, tell someone I am not upset when I really am…I am out of integrity.

If I say I’ll pay someone on the first of the month and I pay on the 12th and I rationalize it because I have been busy and other people delay their payments until much later than that, I am out of integrity.

It has as much to do with little things as big things.

If I value my health and believe that taking care of my body is an important part of being a leader, and yet after Aikido training on certain mornings I cross the street and go to the little breakfast place for a high calorie Danish and coffee, I am out of integrity. I rationalize my actions by telling myself a nice story… I had a good workout and deserve the reward. Does it hurt anyone? No. Is it a big thing? No. Should I beat myself up about it? No. Would I like to be more deliberate about my breakfast choices? Yes!

I believe in a clean environment but as I rush past a corner trashcan and shoot a balled up paper bag at it and miss, I keep going. I tell myself, that normally I’d pick it up; but today I’m late and there are so many people in the crowd, and it’s just one small piece of garbage, and I’m really pretty religious about being neat with my trash, and there’s plenty of other people’s garbage blowing around the street, and on, and on, and on.

Now, it may seem I am beating myself up about little things. It may seem like this is an exercise in negativity and self-criticism; but it isn’t. It is nothing more than waking up and becoming aware of the constant stream of stories I tell myself from moment to moment throughout the day. It is through the recognition that these stories are rationalizations that I start to breakdown their power.

I am a human being. I am not perfect. On the other hand, I want to continue to grow my integrity.

To be in integrity is to be deliberate about one’s actions.

So, armed with this awareness, every moment is a chance to choose to act in ways that are in integrity with my beliefs and values. I can choose to listen to the person standing in front of me, or I can let my mind slip into thinking about what is next on my schedule and pretend that I am listening by nodding my head and saying “Hmm!”

I can be angry and frustrated with someone’s behavior and make believe nothing is wrong while letting the anger and frustration cloud my behaviors, or I can choose to have the courage to speak with them about it.

The more we are out of integrity the more difficult it is for us to lead others.

If we say we value professional development; but make it the first target for cuts when the budget is under stress…

If we talk about transforming teaching and learning, but continue to spend all of our time and energy in putting out fires and dealing with day-to-day issues…

…when we stand in front of others and ask them to follow us, we may find that people hesitate.

Integrity builds trust, both in ourselves and in others.

It helps if we can wake up to the stories that we tell ourselves to rationalize where we are not in integrity. Once we are aware, we can decide to be more deliberate about the choices we make.

The more often our values and beliefs align with our actions, the more we feel the power of integrity. It is from here that we live a life that is ‘centered’ and ‘grounded’. It is from here that we can effectively lead others. It is from here that we can say…

…I am living life on purpose.


11 thoughts on “Integrity, Stories, and Deliberateness

  1. I really appreciated the transparency here, Pete. I think most of us “trying to make a difference” struggle with this. I am reminded of the quote:

    “There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”

  2. Pete,

    Bravo. This is the path to freedom. Not only freedom for myself, but freedom for everyone. I believe that the biggest fear we all have is that someone will really see us as we are. In doing so, we will have to see ourselves as well. All the “little white lies” that we tell (we have been taught this is acceptable by so many in authority in our lives) add up and the “real” person we are does not resemble how we act.

    Thanks for putting yourself in the spotlight and allowing us all to see who you really are. It is truly beautiful.


  3. Oh I agree with the other comments. I know for sure there are parts of myself that I just don’t like – they are the bits I hope to hide while ‘growing’ them … but they never are all hidden are they.
    A very honest and thoughtful piece – thank you.

  4. Oh I agree with the other comments. I know for sure there are parts of myself that I just don’t like – they are the bits I hope to hide while ‘growing’ them … but they never are all hidden are they.
    A very honest and thoughtful piece – thank you.

  5. Jody,
    If we can look at ourselves and see the areas that are out of integrity and still love ourselves…that is the gift. We are humans and the struggles we engage in are exactly perfect for us.

    …but you are right, nothing is really hidden.


  6. I seem to have stummbled upon this site without really knowing what it’s about,but coincidently I have recently come from a councillor apointment where he told me that I have no integrity…. I”m not really sure what integrity is ,but the more I talked with him and the more I see what you guys have to say the more I see that he was right. For the last however many years I have been cheating on my wife of 15 years and lieing( how do you spell that) about ti the whole time. I have been doing it for so long that it has not only become second nature, but I have gone so far that I don’t know how to get back. Which way do I go, how do I stop what I have become and become who I think I should be, For me , for my wife, for my kids and forever?

  7. I experimented with looking at your blog on my new iphone 4 and the design does not seem to be right. Might want to check it out on WAP as well as it seems most cellphone layouts are not really working with your website.

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