My father was the most honest and honorable person I have ever known. Maybe that’s why I look for integrity in the world no matter what and it is something I truly know I give to this world. Although my father was reserved with and about his feelings, he did not give falsity either. I cherish that quality, maybe not necessarily of too much reserved feelings, but of being and staying strong inside so there is no cause to give anything but genuineness.
I believe honesty is and always will be the best policy. Integrity is one quality that tops everything on my list. If I have no integrity, I have nothing. Perhaps that’s too black and white, but there it is. Integrity is genuineness to me.
I remember my father’s wisdom now, but I didn’t even realize that he was giving me and my siblings such priceless insights at the time. I didn’t think there would come a time when I would look back and say how I wish I knew then.
My father had a way of teaching us, which taught us without us even knowing we were being taught. He would tell us a lesson in a story. His stories would be repeated of course whenever the need for them arose and we would all say in unison that we had heard it before, not realizing the need for it at the time. But he would tell it anyway and we would listen to it.
Somewhere in there, the lessons did stick.
Being honest doesn’t necessarily mean I have to hurt someone’s feelings or not care at all about how others will take my words or actions; that would be blunt and careless of me. In those times, integrity has its test – although it compels me to say my truth always, it also requires me to know when that truth needs to be said and to remember that sometimes truth needs be said with tact. But in any given situation, being honest calls for a knowing that anything less would be unthinkable.
First and foremost, honesty needs me to be me. If I am being someone I am not, I am not being honest. If I am being judgmental or critical or whatever it may be then honesty needs me to own up to that, even if it is just to myself. Honesty begins at home, with myself.
At every moment, life asks I make a choice from what words to use to what actions to take. But gratefully, integrity is not something I have to choose. It’s ingrained, thanks in part to my father for being who he was and partly to my own personality. Unfortunately though for many other things in life, I have to remember to make a conscious choice and not act on an automatic pilot. And this, to be honest, I keep forgetting to do.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.