“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not” (Oprah Winfrey)

We all fail – far too often!  Our intent, however, should be to live with integrity. James P Lenfesty, in his article, ‘Catch of a Lifetime’ in Reader’s Digest, relates the story of an integrity decision that a little boy had to make:

“He was eleven years old and went fishing every chance he got from the dock of his family’s cabin on an island in the middle of a New Hampshire lake. On the day before the bass season opened, he and his father were fishing early in the evening, catching sunfish and perch with worms. Then he tied on a small silver lure and practised casting. The lure struck the water and caused coloured ripples in the sunset, then silver ripples as the moon rose over the lake. When his pole doubled over, he knew something huge was on the other end. His father watched with admiration as the boy skilfully worked the fish alongside the dock. Finally, he very gingerly lifted the exhausted fish from the water. It was the largest one he had ever seen, but it was a bass. The boy and his father looked at the handsome fish, gills playing back and forth in the moonlight. The father lit a match and looked at his watch. It was 10:00 p.m. – two hours before the season opened. He looked at the fish, then at the boy.

“You’ll have to put it back son,” he said.

“Dad!” cried the boy.

“There will be other fish,” said his father.

“Not as big as this one,” cried the boy.

He looked around the lake. No other fishermen or boats were anywhere around in the moonlight. He looked again at his father. Even though no-one had seen them, nor would anyone know what time he caught the fish, the boy could tell by the clarity of his father’s voice that the decision was not negotiable. He slowly worked the hook out of the lip of the huge bass and lowered it back into the black water. The creature swished its powerful body and disappeared. The boy suspected that he would never again see such a great fish.

That was thirty-four years ago. Today, the boy is a successful architect in New York City. His father’s cabin is still there on the island in the middle of the lake. He takes his own son and daughters fishing from the same dock. And he was right. He has never again caught such a magnificent fish as the one he landed that night long ago. But he does see the same fish – again and again – every time he comes up against a question of ethics.”

Dr Stephen R Covey, (Everyday Greatness), notes: “Integrity is the common denominator that sustains every other principle. If perceived as dishonest, for example, a person filled with courage is feared and avoided. If viewed as unethical, a person performing an act of charity is assumed to be a selfish manipulator. So, without the foundation of integrity, all other principles are greatly diminished.

People with integrity are those whose words match their deeds and whose behaviours mirror their values. Their honesty and ethics can be trusted unconditionally. They honour commitments. They are dependable. They are known for doing the right things, for the right reasons, at the right times. While numerous tales of integrity take place in public settings where others can see them, often the most powerful examples occur in the quiet stillness of a private moment – when no-one else is looking.”

Do you pass the integrity test?

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