By Chris Chittenden
"The glue that holds all relationships together -- including the relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity."
… Brian Tracy (b. 1944) US author and motivational speaker
Here are a couple of questions for you to ponder before you read this article:
- Is your integrity important to you?
- How well do you maintain your integrity?
I have very little doubt that the answer to the first question will be quick and clear - "Of course, integrity is important to me!" However, a clear answer to the second question may prove to be a little bit more of a challenge for you. I know it does for me.
Before we explore the second question in more depth, I need to define what I mean by "integrity". In general, integrity is the state of being whole and undiminished. In terms of being human, this relates to having a moral character and being true to our self. In order to determine how well we maintain our integrity, we first have to be clear about who we want to be as a "whole" being and then determine whether we are achieving this or not, which requires a high level of awareness together with the capacity to be honest with ourselves.
One way of developing a better assessment of our own integrity lies in the commitments we make for ourselves and to others. To understand why this is the case, it is valuable to appreciate what is at stake when we make a commitment.
From an impersonal perspective, a commitment entails doing something - a task of some sort. This is the obvious aspect of a promise - I commit to take some action for you by a certain time and to a certain standard and deliver you a certain outcome. If limited to this perspective, we are left with a transactional view of commitments.
However, life is not so simple and as with all aspects of life, there are two other perspectives to be addressed - the interpersonal and personal - and it is the impact of dishonoured commitments in these two domains that create much of the discord in our lives.
The interpersonal perspective of a commitment is about relationship and most particularly about trust, which includes the aspect of how well we deal with the promises we make to others. We only have to briefly explore the impact of dishonoured promises made to us and how we feel about the people who made them to see how this can have a significant impact on our relationships. Most people understand this connection at some level although many do not really appreciate the impact on their lives.
Finally we come to a personal perspective of a commitment. The relationship between the commitments we make or those which are made to us and our sense of self may not be obvious but the impact can be profound. When we sincerely make a commitment, we create an expectation of ourselves to ourselves and to others. In not honouring a commitment, many people feel guilt. When I feel guilty I am seeing that I have done something that I shouldn't have done and I don't like this about myself. Each feeling of guilt can perpetuate a negative self-story undermining our sense of integrity.
With this in mind, I invite you to think more deeply about your commitments to others and for yourself.
Before you make a commitment, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I being sincere in making this commitment? Do I really mean it?
- Am I capable of meeting this commitment? Do I have the skills or the time?
- Do I have the resources to meet this commitment? Is the equipment I need available? Are other people needed to help me and are they available?
When you make a commitment; honour it! That does not mean always keeping it as sometimes things change and you cannot. If you cannot keep your commitment to someone else then apologise and address this breakdown in some way. In doing so, you honour yourself and the other person. You also uphold your integrity.
© 2013 Chris Chittenden