By Pratima N
I would like to begin by defining what ‘integrity’ really means, the term being so loosely used in discussions and often confused with morality. As per Wikipedia (where I found the most appropriate explanation) the word “integrity” stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete).
In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
The above explanation essentially conveys that integrity originates from within; that is, from one’s very sense of being. A person with integrity acts and behaves as per her core beliefs and values in all circumstances irrespective of the situation or the opportunity presented to act in contrary.
So I do not quite understand when people say ‘I work with professional integrity’ and how is it different from personal integrity. If we consider the above explanation, then some random acts of honesty or only in some areas of life do not amount to integrity. Nor does the concept of being principled most of the times holds good.
Either one has integrity or one doesn’t. The sense of integrity can never be occasional!
The sense of honesty mirrors itself in a person’s actions as well as words. The consistency of one’s character in all kinds of situations gives one integrity and makes one trustworthy. Trust originates from consistency… when there is predictability in one’s behavior in any given situation.
Therefore Yudhisthitra, the son of Dharma himself, who lived his whole life with integrity, lost his credibility with one small lie (or rather, a deliberate attempt to misguide Dronacharya) when he participated in spreading the rumor of Ashwathama being dead, during the battle of Mahabharata. He failed miserably in honoring the trust that his guru Dronacharya had reposed in him.
If we deliberate on integrity among women, we will realize that the relevance as well as prevalence of integrity is in no way different from integrity among men…. except for the ramifications.
Life today is indeed tough and integrity as a virtue is tougher than ever to practice. Women are equal victims of the changing value systems and are increasingly falling prey to temptations.
I am reminded of a good friend’s remark once when I was shocked at her turnaround, “Pratima, for you things are either black or white; but it does not happen that way. There are grey areas too”. And I had furiously reacted, “things have to be black or white, otherwise it’s just being an opportunist!”
Over the years I have witnessed more and more women echoing her views through words or deeds and I am no more shocked to witness the acts of dishonesty.
Interestingly enough we have improvised and are using polished words instead to cover up the malice. Phrases like ‘it works mutually’ ‘convenience’, ‘being smart’, ’being proactive’ often convey the intentions behind !
The desire to get ahead is so strong that the little unsporting push here and there is all a part of the game. Values, ethics, integrity are taboo words not to be discussed at home lest the children may get confused and lag behind the neighbor’s child.
We are raising champions, and not children any more. Success at any rate is the new mantra. Do our children have enough role models around to emulate the traits of integrity? How will they learn that integrity is a trait to be practiced and not a fancy word reserved only for articles?
And this is the ramification that concerns me. Parents are the biggest role models for children where character is concerned and a mother’s role is still bigger, she being at the core of the family.
Not to downplay a father’s role; a mother by virtue of our social structure is usually available more for the child and has a deeper connection psychologically as well.
Given her influence over young minds, she has to acknowledge this fact and cautiously guide her child to the values. This may be the reason that nature has endowed her with resilience and strength and exercising integrity is more within her powers.
Coming back to where I began, integrity originates from our very core. And haven’t we, the women, stopped looking within… haven’t we lost connection with our own selves?
We have become so paranoid that we have lost faith in our own abilities. Nature has crafted women to be a superior species. (Menfolk, don’t raise your brows!). Isn’t the gift of child bearing and rearing a proof ?
Over the last few decades, women have made a big leap from their old repressed state to that of power. However, in doing so, we seem to have lost touch with our inherent strengths.
Keeping aside the burden of expectations, our fears and insecurities, if we look inside at the person we truly are, we will discover someone we approve of …a person we would love to be with.
It is our very essence and we can reach out to it by a little effort. The journey to integrity is not easy…but we women never had anything easy!