Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
“When you are able to maintain your own highest standards of integrity – regardless of what others may do – you are destined for greatness.” – Napoleon Hill
Two years ago, a church leader told the congregation that he wouldn’t be running anymore as their top official. Unknown to many, he really wanted to stay. So, in a secret meeting, he called those people who would vote for him during an election. They made a devious plan.
So, when the election time came, someone nominated him. To guarantee that he would win, his followers cheated by throwing away those votes for the other tyro nominees and changing it with the seasoned leader. In the end, he won again, but church members knew that he lost.
“The people have spoken,” he said after he was declared winner again. “The voice of the people is the voice of God!”
Leaders, especially those in the church, should be men of integrity. As singer Bob Marley puts it: “The greatness of a man is not how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
As a virtue, integrity seems to be vanishing these days. This is especially true among politicians, who cannot be trusted anymore and whose words cannot be believed.
Two old ladies were walking around a somewhat overcrowded cemetery and came upon a tombstone. The inscription said, “Here lies a person, a politician and a man with integrity.” The other lady deplored, “Good heavens! Isn’t it awful that they had to put two people in the same grave?”
Her reaction was understandable. Can you name a politician with integrity these days? American billionaire Warren Buffett reminds, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”
The dictionary defines integrity as “the state of being complete, unified.” When a person has integrity, his words and his deeds match up. He is who he is, no matter where he is or who he is with. As Don Galer puts it, “Integrity is what we do, what we say, and what we say we do.”
If a father tells his son not to smoke and he doesn’t smoke, then his son will not smoke either. If the boss says, “Put the customer first,” and he puts the customer first, then his subordinates will put the customer first.
On the other hand, if the father tells his son not to drink alcoholic beverages and he drinks wine and beers, then his son will definitely follow what his father is doing and not what he has been told. If the leader says “Be positive” and he exhibits a negative attitude, then some will be positive and others won’t.
“Integrity is not a conditional word,” John D. MacDonald says. “It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.”
Leaders should have integrity if they want to be credible. If he is credible, he can say what he wants to say, and people would believe him. “Keep true, never be ashamed of doing right; decide on what you think is right and stick to it,” British novelist George Eliot once said.
If a leader has integrity, then he will still be remembered even afterlife. Take the case of Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay. He was consistent in helping the poor Filipinos. It was too bad that he died in a plane crash while performing his duties.
“A life lived with integrity – even if it lacks the trappings of fame and fortune – is a shining star in whose light others may follow in the years to come,” Denis Waitley commended.
“Integrity is the first step to true greatness,” said Charles Simmons. “People love to praise, but are slow to practice it. To maintain it in high places costs self-denial; in all places it is liable to opposition, but its end is glorious, and the universe will yet do it homage.”
When one loses integrity, it is very hard to correct the damage done. Rachel Naomi Remen tells us that. She said, “Perhaps losing integrity with yourself is the greatest stress of all, far more hurtful to us than competition, time pressure, or lack of respect. Our vitality is rooted in our integrity. When we do not live in one piece, our life force becomes divided. Becoming separated from our authentic values may weaken us.”
A leader who doesn’t have the trust of the people (and believed only by a chosen few, mostly his followers) should heed what his conscience tells him. If he hears the voice of the masses, only then can he regain his integrity.
“With integrity, you have nothing to fear,” said American inspirational speaker Zig Ziglar. “Since you have nothing to hide, with integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.”
Here’s what American preacher Billy Graham said: “Integrity means that we are trustworthy and dependable and our character is above reproach.”
Finally, here’s a final thought from an anonymous author: “If you value your integrity, then be prepared to take a beating from those who have none.”