I hold integrity as the greatest character trait a person can have. It is honesty at its most fundamental, holding self with the same high regard as others. A Tweet by Simon Sinek summed it up beautifully:
Integrity is when you say the same things publicly that you say privately.Simon Sinek
For me, it is a way of managing the complexity of life, too: if I know I’ve made a decision I can justify to myself, then others can make of it what they will; I know my intention, they can either ask to find out more or make their own judgements.
What I do struggle with though, is unintended negative consequences.
I know that everything I do, however small or well-intentioned, has consequences for others. I find chaos theory too complex to understand fully, but it’s not hard to see the link between, for instance, shopping online and the death of the high street; using a supermarket and perpetuating the perceived need for single-use plastics. (I thoroughly recommend the – old – Netflix series The Good Place for a light-hearted look at this*.)
These consequences and thinking about them all the time could be (is) exhausting. It’s not possible for me to save the global eco-system on my own; I can’t undo hundreds of years of social and structural racism; telling all the men I know (repeatedly) that they’re great but need to step up more often isn’t going to solve the problem of toxic masculinity.
What I can do is make the best decisions possible, using the information available and act with integrity. This isn’t always easy either. It requires diligence and research to maximise the positive consequences and minimise the negative. It might require falling out with people who have previously been friends. But if people want to start disliking me because I’ve challenged their casual racism or listened to experts rather than conspiracy theorists, so be it.
I listen to what others tell me is wrong and act on that information; sometimes it means calling out a Facebook post, sometimes writing to my MP (try it!) and sometimes it means doing nothing at all. I won’t always get it right and I won’t always make a difference, but my integrity means I will certainly try.
*With enormous thanks to Gary and Mark.