The term “integrity” is complex. In the broadest strokes, it is defined as “moral soundness; honesty; freedom from corrupting influence or motive” (“Integrity” par. 2). However, one should look beyond these components and take into account the Latin origin of the word: it derived from the adjective meaning “complete”, “whole” (“Integrity” par. 1). While a person of integrity is not always honest and righteous, people considered high-toned might lack the intensity of their faith. In other words, following strong moral principles makes an individual complete. Distinct from honesty and virtue, integrity becomes the cornerstone of a person’s character in communication with other people and self-perception.
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Although honesty and virtue are often associated with integrity, the differences are profound. Honesty assumes that one tells the truth and may be trusted. Honest people are unlikely to steal, betray, or cheat. In comparison, virtue incorporates manifold moral qualities including honesty. Virtuous people adhere to good and avoid evil. Unlike honesty and virtue, integrity refers to the person’s character as the undivided whole. Various traits contribute to the personality. Individuals sticks to their opinions, beliefs, and views: being honest or virtuous may be included into their personal ideologies just like any other principle.
In a real-life setting, people constantly interact and influence each other. If a person has a reputation for decency, their behavior and philosophy are likely to relate to those of the society. Some individuals are known as inflexible or stubborn: such negative characteristics are probably the result of contrastive moral values. The book A Clergyman’s Daughter by G. Orwell provides examples of such people. At the beginning of the book, the protagonist, Dorothy Hare, was a modest girl who strongly believed in God and set high moral standards for herself (Orwell 18). Although she perceived herself as a weak-willed creature, her integrity was de facto high. The surrounding people considered her pious and righteous. Another character is Mr. Warburton: outrageous and critic, he was not accepted by the villagers. However, he may also be treated as a person of integrity because he has developed his own frame of reference and did not change his principles in order to attract Dorothy whom he seemed to like. Thus, integrity amidst a society may be regarded as virtue or vice: it either helps in communication or hampers it.
While the external world may welcome certain forms of integrity and militate against the others, self-integrity is closely connected with self-honesty. A person may lay down their moral guidelines, follow the principles with a clear conscience, and not be ashamed of who they are. Before amnesia, Dorothy was a dedicated churchwoman and could not imagine her life without faith. She was honest even when Mr. Warburton tried to kiss her because she resisted it. Another scenario is that a person lies to themselves and, simultaneously, other people. Having overcome amnesia, Dorothy could not return to her own self: she lost her faith and had to pretend that she believed in God. Thus, her integrity was destroyed.
In conclusion, integrity is one of the most important yet puzzling terms. Although it is often limited to honesty and virtue, the actual meaning is broader. It is possible to consider integrity as the translating one’s moral principles to action in real life. In this respect, a person’s behavior is associated with either good or evil. At the same time, integrity correlates with the inner world and self-honesty: a person chooses to admit the truth or lie to themselves.
“Integrity.” Webster Dictionary, n.d. Web.
Orwell, George. A Clergyman’s Daughter. California: California Books Inc., 2014. Print.
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