“The values I stand for are honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, these are traditional values” ~ Ellen DeGeneres
Like Ellen, I also believe these things should be how be the compass of we conduct ourselves everyday in life, no ifs, ands or buts; in fact, I’ll sum all these important traits using a word is very important to me; and that word is “Integrity”.
The dictionary describes integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness” as in “he is known to be a man of integrity”.
For example, in his famous quote “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching” author C.S. Lewis reminds us that regardless of who is around, we always know in our hearts if our actions and behaviours are morally correct… a definition that for many, is the root meaning of “integrity”.
Now, no disrespect meant to C.S., but my all time favourite quote about integrity comes from T. Harv Eker, who says “The way you do anything is the way you do everything”. This quote eloquently reminds us that regardless of the situation, big or small, it’s always important to show up to every situation in life with our “A” game, and why not?
Let’s face it: We’re all in on this life together and therefore should be as nice to each other as possible, right? And if you’re like me, you’ll find more often or not that this is where integrity comes into play.
Unfortunately, it seems these days that many people are simply too consumed with their own perceived needs and entitlements that they ignore the traits that define integrity, and worse; by doing so, become completely disrespectful and unkind to those around them.
It’s true: Lately I’ve witnessed more and more of the “me-me-me” mindset overriding any thoughts or actions of kindness, consideration and empathy for our fellow man; look no future to the legions of “smartphone obsessed” zombies wandering down the streets, bumping into people around them as they update their social media accounts with selfies and pictures of the hot dog they just had for lunch. For many, it seems such self-absorbed and petty actions have not only become a way of life, but worse – are are viewed as their personal rights, over everyone (and everything) else around them.
Take yesterday for example; whilst driving away from Costco (always a nightmare on weekends) I’d stopped in order for oncoming traffic to be able to turn left onto the highway – so far, so good. As most drivers patiently waited for the light ahead to turn green, two cars from the long line behind us didn’t; instead they impatiently swerved out of the line, then sped up slipped into the space we’d left open for turning traffic, all so they could “move up” up a few feet.
Both drivers probably felt these unscrupulous manoeuvres gained them some advantage, despite the fact that they now blocked the exit ramp so now nobody could move in any direction! And when the light did finally turn green the two offending drivers sped off once again, passing cars on the merge lane, creating even more dangerous situations for themselves, and everyone around them.
What I find most interesting is that this behaviour didn’t (and usually doesn’t) achieve anything – something that was obvious as we passed both offending cars in another traffic snarl just a few short minutes later! Actually, their behaviour did accomplish one thing; the demonstrated that these
motorists people operate without integrity, or any respect for those around them.
It’s Not Just About Drivers
You’ll notice I crossed out the word motorist above, and put in the word “people” instead, and here’s why: This selfish behaviour isn’t a motoring problem, it’s a people problem; or to be completely accurate, it’s an entitlement problem, and here’s why: These behaviors are a direct result of individuals believing that their time and needs are more important than the time and needs of other’s; entitlement that has them believing it’s okay to do whatever they can – regardless of danger, circumstance or consequence – to put their own needs first.
And for the record, I say danger because I can’t tell you how many times cars have illegally sped around corners at crosswalks narrowly missing Tristan (my disabled son who uses a motorized wheelchair) who, despite waiting patiently for the “Walk” sign to illuminate before crossing, has been thrown into total fear by a car speeding just 8 – 10 feet from him, rather than waiting the 15 seconds he needs to cross.
Or how about motorists who feel it’s okay to drive 50 km+ down our 30 km street, despite there being a park full of kids playing all hours of the day, or elderly folks crossing the road between cars, etc. – do they truly feel that they need to get to wherever they have to be so fast they’d risk hitting – and possibly killing – these vulnerable citizens? Do these people not understand the risk they are taking with such reckless behavior? How everyone’s life – theirs included – would dramatically change if they did strike someone in their haste to get someplace a little faster?
I’ve also come to realize that pointing these things out to offenders does no good; for some reason, rather than accept responsibility for their actions, they always, always justify (often violently) their behavior. Consider the (able-bodied) parent I approached for parking in the handicapped spot at my son’s high school – meaning I couldn’t safely load him into our handicap van – who matter-of-factly replied “I was only there for a few minutes” as though I was in the wrong for calling her out for illegally parking.
Or the young guy driving through the crowed mall parking lot this week, busy reading his phone between upward glances at the bumper-to-bumper traffic. When I politely (but firmly) said “Dude, don’t text and drive” he yelled back “I’m not texting!” then drove off while skillfully giving me the finger without putting the phone down! Seriously?
How do we reason with people who behave this way? The short answer is that we don’t; the best we can do is not be like them… not at all.
Choosing Integrity: It’s a Better Way To Go
I think I’ll always marvel at how anyone could ever believe that – under any circumstances – such treatment towards their fellow man could ever be considered the fair, respectful or the right thing to do? I just don’t get it; but more importantly I hope I never, ever behave this way myself, which is why I make a conscious effort to ensure that the small gestures and habits that make up integrity, never become lost on myself.
Which is why I’m writing these words; to serve as a reminder that regardless of how busy I am, or how much of a rush I’m in at the time, that ensure I don’t fall into the same “I’m more important than you” trap some folks do. I don’t ever want to forget that good manners, “doing the right thing” or taking time to be respectful and kind towards my fellow man should ever trump whatever self-imposed deadline I’m think I’m on at the time.
Such choices clearly demonstrate a massive lack of personal integrity on behalf of such people, and what troubles me most is I’ve noticed a lot more of this kind of behaviour as of late. It all makes me wonder that if the way these people “do anything is the way they do everything”, then what kind of a lives must they possibly lead? If you honestly think about it, you’ll get the answer.
As good members of society, there are certain things we should expect from each other; things like allowing all pedestrians (young and old, able-bodides or disabled, etc.) to cross roads without worrying they could be struck by a moving vehicle; or not dumping our old and discarded furniture on the side of the streets we live on; or that well dressed families in their 2015 $40,000 Nissan wagons won’t abuse food banks, leaving the service for those who really need it; or dog owners that always clean up after their pets, rather than allowing them to do their business on our lawns, then leaving the mess. Honestly, the list goes on and on.
Choosing integrity: Meaning doing the right thing whether or not someone is watching – is a choice, and one that I will continue to take seriously. Because I want to know that the way I do anything IS the way I do everything – and that way will always include integrity.
In other words, I will always ask people how their day is going, and then genuinely listen to what they have to say. I will hold open doors for everyone I can. I will offer to help strangers in any small way I can. I will patiently wait my turn in grocery store line ups, yet let those with a couple items go ahead of me EVERY TIME. I will stop at all crosswalks for pedestrians, and NOT run yellow and red lights.
I will continue to use integrity as my compass, whatever it looks like in the situation at hand. And while I may be tempted to cheat sometimes, or take the easy way out of a situation, in my heart I’ll know that by doing so is not congruent with who I am trying to be, and hopefully that in itself will help me stay on course.
And with all that said, I only have two things to add:
- Please wish me luck; and…
- Won’t you join me?