TWAICB Director Sandy Sohcot writes: For the past 2 months, the character-building theme of my 7-year old granddaughter’s Taekwondo Class is:
Integrity – Doing the right thing even if no one is watching
I’ve listened in on class discussions where the Taekwondo master has the students offer their ideas on what integrity means. One student said he picks up litter without being asked, and another said she doesn’t eat that second piece of candy when she’s been told to take only one, knowing this is the right thing to do. These and other earnest student comments have inspired me and prompted me to consider why the concept of integrity deserves deeper consideration in connection with the ways in which we adults operate, individually and collectively.
“Integrity,” an article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy first published in 2001, then updated in 2017, provides helpful insights into the concept’s many dimensions. While we generally think of integrity as part of a person’s character, there can, as the article points out, be integrity of an environmental ecosystem, or of a musical composition, or, of social and political structures. In all of these examples, the essence of integrity is maintaining wholeness and intactness. I learn from this that examining our own sense of integrity, as well as the systems around us, could help us better understand not only our own personal dilemmas, but also how divisions or polarities within our social, political and economic environments have an impact on us.
I’ve come to regard dimensions of integrity like a set of nesting dolls, where we, as individuals, are the inside doll, and the situations we encounter with our families, our work, our communities, our country, and our world nest around us. For me, the layers around me include the U.S. Constitution and our democratic system governed by the rule of law, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all of which connects me to the rest of the world and provides a framework for what every human being ought to experience so as to be treated equally, with respect, justice and dignity. I believe that integrity provides structural soundness to this nesting system, in which a breakdown in integrity at any level can have a rippling effect on individuals and society as a whole.
I offer the following questions for further thought and discussion about how we might examine integrity in ourselves and the world around us to move toward greater wholeness and intactness:
1. What does it mean to “do the right thing”?
2. How do we practice integrity in our interactions with others?
3. What circumstances can cause us to act outside of integrity?
4. How can integrity guide us to speak up and/or take action when we see a situation that needs attention? If we don’t speak up, does that imply a lack of integrity?
5. Could considering it in the light of integrity help us name what needs to be addressed in a given situation?
6. If integrity is lacking in any layer, in what ways does this affect the whole system?
Discuss these questions with your family, friends and colleagues. Get back to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know the results of your discussions, and what you would like to share with others. Thank you!