The Strength of a Nation
During a presentation many years ago, an inspiring woman stood in front of us waving her arms in the air as if she was pretending to play baseball. Or so we thought! She asked us what she was doing. Quizzically we looked at her and said, “You are playing baseball.” She replied, “No, I’m playing golf.” We looked at each other in confusion as if to say, “That’s definitely baseball to us!” She then made a statement that has always stayed with me, “People will always believe what you do more than what you say.”
Sometimes we confuse integrity with honesty, but it is so much more. To be a person of integrity we must consistently act according to our beliefs in our lives, both hidden and in public. We need to be the same person no matter with whom we communicate, and we need to be able to consistently stand up for our principles. One of the challenges to living a life of integrity is knowing who we are and exactly what principles drive us. When we are not built on a strong, personal foundation it is easy for us to be swayed in all directions. Therefore, the teenage years for our children are fraught with risk. Many teens question the beliefs and principles they have been taught, often coming to their own conclusions and making modifications.
While we may believe that integrity is an important quality, we may also unconsciously be working against instilling this principle in ourselves and our families. Steven R. Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People reported studying self-help writings over 200 years since 1776. He noticed that in the first 150 years of the American Republic the emphasis was on character, including integrity, as the foundation of success. However, shortly after World War I, there was a shift to viewing success more as a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques.
Many of our popular self-help messages have arisen from this shift. Examples include “Smiling wins more friends than frowning,” and, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” These are undoubtedly admirable messages, but do we also share messages that encourage an emphasis on principled living? How do we fight against the pressure to conform to a specific socially acceptable mold? As women, we may be particularly susceptible to setting the example of worrying about what other people think and feel and being frightened of offending others. The importance of teaching integrity needs to outweigh these fears.
So how do we teach integrity? By living it. By finding out what we truly believe and who we are. By speaking our minds with clarity in assertive ways. By being consistent in how we live according to our beliefs. Others will pay more attention to what we do than what we say.
We think about this emphasis on image when we think about our modern politics which are so clearly based on personality rather than integrity. How do we know this? We speak about personalities and we take sides on the left and the right of the political spectrum based on these personalities rather than on the issues. If we were truly based on integrity, we would be able to have discussions on individual topics and issues without even mentioning personalities. When we approach the next elections, let’s act with integrity, set the example and debate on principles. When we question our candidates, let’s ask them about their stance on principles that are important to us and whether they will be true to what they say.
Our ability to shift to a society based on character and integrity begins in our homes and with our friends. As Confucius said, “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” It is one of the goals of Big Ocean Women to encourage this shift to a character-based society.
Secretary, Big Ocean Women
 Stephen R Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Powerful lessons in Personal Change. 1990, pg. 18-20.