Living with Integrity

Living with integrity – introduction

Are you living your life with honesty and sincerity? Do you value the inner things that matter most rather than the outer things that are temporal and matter least?

Integrity has two facets to it. As human beings there are two groups of people we must be honest and true to. The first is our family, relatives, friends, colleagues, and society as a whole. Secondly, and more importantly, we must be totally honest and true to ourselves. Abraham Lincoln declared when he was president: “I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me.”

Living with integrity – the challenge

In a country like ours, it seems impossible at times to live a life of integrity. The impression you get is that in order to get anything done you have to bribe someone, threaten them or do one favour or other for them. “Nchekelako,” or bribery, has become a pervasive force in our society that threatens all the progress and development we so desperately need. It is a threat to free and fair trade, competition, quality products and services and, most of all, to justice.

In every third or fourth shop you will visit these days, particularly in areas such as Kamwala in Lusaka, someone will try to sell you something at a “discount” below the counter. I must admit that at one point I myself did not mind paying less at these shops, but after starting my own business I realized that the practice was extremely unfair to the hardworking entrepreneurs that operate these businesses.

The surprising thing is that quite a few people actually have the nerve to complain about the ill-treatment of Zambian shop assistants when their shop owners ask them to leave the shop when they have to use the bathroom or go out to do anything. But how do you treat someone you simply cannot trust? How do you treat a person who takes every opportunity they get to steal from you and sabotage your business? It is partly the dishonesty of the people themselves that leads them to be mistrusted and mistreated.

Living with integrity – having personal moral and ethical standards

Dennis Waitley said “Integrity, a standard of personal morality and ethics, is not relative to the situation you happen to find yourself in and doesn't sell out to expediency. Its short supply is getting even shorter…” He was writing about the USA, but you could just as well apply that to Zambia. It seems the odds are against honest, sincere and truthful people.

The whole setup of things is in favour of dishonesty and cheating. Not to point fingers, but at times the very structures that are put in place to protect us and our rights as people are the same structures that violate our rights and perpetuate these vices. Justice seems to respond to money rather than to right and wrong. It would not be totally wrong to say that if you plan to live a life of integrity in this country you are in for a very tough time.

Living with integrity – we all have a part to play

Who is to blame? All of us. Both the people receiving and those giving favours and bribes are at fault. We must all acknowledge our role in what is happening and, as individuals, do our best to ensure that we do not encourage and feed this moral decline. Clement Stone advised that we “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”

It may be hard, but it is necessary for anyone that desires to live a life that is in harmony with their spiritual values and basic human dignity. Furthermore, the bad things you do today may and usually do come back to haunt you. Only by living with integrity can you live a life free of worry and fear. As the saying goes “a liar must have a good memory” to hide all their lies. Why waste valuable energy and time hiding your lies and wrong doings?

Living with integrity – being sincere to yourself

Closely related to integrity, and in line with being true to yourself, is sincerity. It is interesting to note the origin of the word sincerity. In the Roman Empire it became common for someone’s status in society to be symbolized by the number of statues they had in their yard. So in order to fake a high status in society people started buying cheap statues.

Some of these statues suffered from poor workmanship which required the use of wax to conceal cracks and defects. Unfortunately, the wax did not hold up well in the sunlight and other harsh weather and pretty soon the fakeness of the statues would show. The makers of the genuine statues started to put “sine cera” on their displays and shops, which meant “without wax.” It is from this that we get the word sincerity.

Part of living with integrity is living with sincerity. That means being true to yourself and who you really are. It is realizing that it is not what is on the outside that matters most but what is on the inside. At times people try to get their identity from the outward things. They want to drive the flashiest cars and wear the latest designer clothes and have the longest titles at work and so on. Their identity is derived from all these outward things.

Unfortunately, such people are often the most insecure people, trying to find meaning in material things and titles. But you must realize, as a dreamer, though you can desire all these things that true integrity comes from within. Possessions will never make you whole. It is your inner thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that will do that. Otherwise when the “push comes to shove” and the elements and realities of life beat down on you the material wax you put on to hide your inner imperfections will melt away. What will you turn to then?

Living with integrity – conclusion

The person who lives with integrity and sincerity is strong come rain or shine. Endeavour to be such a person. Let your actions be in conformity with your words. Do the right thing, even if nobody is watching or will find out. In the wise words of Paul Wellstone, “Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.”

You are all you can be. Go on and be it.

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