“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” -Arthur Golden
Although we know better, we often make evaluations of people and products based solely on outward appearances. But appearances can be deceptive. Quality is determined more by what’s inside.
It is in life’s most challenging situations — the house is in flames, what do you grab on the way out? Or when the diagnosis is cancer— that the superficial elements are torn away like chaff. These defining moments help us focus more clearly on what matters most. They reveal what’s inside (our character) and help us “see ourselves as we really are.” However, this honest introspection can be unsettling if we discover that our inner-self is out of sync with our outer-self.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet Polonius counsels his son, “To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
There was a man who was trying to conclude a large purchase of equipment by year’s end. On December 29th the seller called to say there was simply not enough time to prepare and send the required documents in time for him to sign and return. The man told his secretary: “Tell them that they have my word. It is better than a written contract.” He then added, “If I were bound only to a written contract, I might find a loophole, but there are no loopholes in my word.”
Integrity is one of those things “that cannot be torn” from us. More than just being technically or legally honest with others, integrity includes honesty with one’s self; doing what one has agreed to do; adherence to universally accepted moral principles; being self disciplined without the need for external compulsion and even when no one else is watching.
One of the state’s most popular attractions is the Salt Lake Temple. Built in the 1800s by Mormon pioneers, of massive granite blocks, the walls are 9 feet thick at the base. It is interesting to note that this impressive structure, almost wasn’t.
After 7 years of painstakingly slow work to excavate the footings and lay the massive sandstone foundation (16 feet wide and 32 feet deep) a defining moment arose when it was discovered that some of the foundation stones had cracked due to settling. Brigham Young was faced with a decision; do the best they could to patch the cracks and build an edifice of much less weight and grandeur than anticipated, or remove the defective sandstone and replace it with a granite foundation that could support the building as designed. Brigham Young chose the latter course (33 years later it was completed).
Each of us chooses the material upon which our character is built. Integrity makes good foundations. Fortunately, it is not something we are born with (you have it or you don’t) rather it is something we develop. If cracks appear, we can also choose to replace stones.
One leader wrote, “A lack of integrity is a major problem in the world. That deficiency undermines every business transaction and every spousal, family, and social relationship it touches. It is a concern of every profession. There are attorneys who bill for hours of service that they never rendered; physicians who recommend surgeries and procedures that were never needed; teachers who fail to prepare lessons but deposit their paychecks just the same; and politicians whose integrity is governed by popular polls rather than by sound principles. It our day, men and women of integrity are in desperate demand but in short supply.”
Governing bodies spend a great deal of time discussing issues and passing laws designed to protect individuals from the consequences and harm that come from a lack of integrity. You’d be hard pressed to identify another issue that impacts society more than a lack of this incomparable commodity.
Integrity is one of the hinges upon which freedom swings. As Edmund Burke explained, “Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. …men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
Gregg Stucki manages a small business and serves on the Moab city council. As the husband of one and the father of nine, he loves life and liberty and has found happiness.