Integrity and why we should always do the right thing

C.S. Lewis said Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
C.S Lewis has the best quote on what integrity is all about, it is what we do when no one is watching.

C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, once said, “integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” That said, integrity is about consistency with our values and asks us to be good all the time, even when no one is watching.

Integrity is about being consistent with our values and doing the right thing regardless of the situation. When we live in line with our values, people will see us as honest and truthful. If we are only good because of the people around us, we aren’t living with integrity.

We all value honesty, especially when it comes from someone we trust and know we can rely on. It is essential to live with integrity if we want to live meaningful lives, so let dive into what it is all about.

Integrity is doing the right thing, all the time, not only when it is convenient.

Have you ever had a friend who made promises but never kept them? Or have you known someone who was incredibly inconsistent? If this happened enough to you, it isn’t likely that you’d stay friends for very long. I’ve been lucky that most of my friends have lots of integrity, but one former friend was all over the place.

My former friend, let’s call him Jim was very successful at work and had many friends, though his friend’s group often changed. Jim gave me good advice when I changed my job; he helped me update my resume and prepare for the interview. He even introduced me to a friend, who I ended dating for four years. And when my ex’s brother was getting married, Jim helped me pick out a suit. In many ways, he was kind and considerate.

He even shared a condo with another friend, Mike, who was looking to move to the city. With that arrangement, he helped Mike make some new friends and enjoy his life in a new place. But at the same time, Jim started to do sketchy things that made me question his character. In fact, by the time Mike moved out, I didn’t even want to keep in touch with Jim anymore.

In particular, I remember Jim invited a few other people to the condo one day. They had lots of food and drinks, and they were pretty generous; however, Jim got drunk and started acting like an ass hole.

The epitome of his drunkenness was evident when he grabbed a wine bottle and threw it off the balcony of their 20th-floor condo without even looking. Luckily no one was hurt.

But things got progressively worse, there was this girl that Mike was totally in love with, and Jim knew. So Jim made it his mission to get involved. It was this girl’s birthday, and Mike made her this cool box and put some of her favourite records in it.

But that night at the bar, Jim did everything he could to keep her attention, and they ended up leaving together before everyone else.

The thing about Jim was that he had zero integrity; he could be your best friend one day, then he would stab you in the back the next. What always bothered me was that he could be so nice about some things but then totally cruel about others.

And this brings us back to the original point, integrity is about doing the right thing all the time, not just when it is convenient.

Integrity is about doing the right thing consistently.

From my story above, it was clear that Jim could be a nice person; in fact, he mostly was, but then there was a dark side to him, and it was nasty. I’m not suggesting people can’t make mistakes or do the wrong thing at times; that is part of life. Hopefully, we live and learn to be better people as a result.

But when there is a clear distinction between a person’s good and bad side, that is where things start to get scary.

At times, doing the right thing can be difficult, and I know it is hard to stand up to people we disagree with. But when there are two different sides to a person, and it is clear that the flaws aren’t honest mistakes, that is when we should start to question someone’s integrity.

Living with integrity requires having a clear set of values about what is good and bad. And while we all have different values, it is usually apparent when someone isn’t acting out of love, compassion or care. But the truth is, it is often hard to tell what other people’s motivations are, so we must focus on ourselves and what we can do better.

I wouldn’t say that I have a sketched-out set of values, but I try to be consistent with my behaviours and do the right thing when I can. In truth, this is often the most we can expect from ourselves and others.

On the other hand, when someone is kind and helpful one day, but then they stab you in the back the next, you know their integrity is in question. And you have to ask, what else is this person up to?

Another thing to remember is that sometimes we fail or make mistakes, and while that is a part of life, what comes afterwards is often the most revealing. Integrity often comes down to how people own up to their mistakes; if they acknowledge that they did wrong or hold themselves accountable, that is a good sign.

But when someone always blames everyone else when things are going bad, you know that they aren’t as trustworthy as they may seem.

While we can’t always know what the right thing to do is, at the very least, we can be honest when we make a mistake and try to be sincere in everything that we do.

Living with integrity means doing the right thing, even when no one is there to judge your misdeeds.

Why is integrity important?

Now that we have a sense of what integrity is all about let’s talk about why it is essential.

  1. You are trustworthy in other’s eyes: While we can’t know everyone perfectly, when we know someone is living with integrity, we are more likely to trust them. When I was moving, I knew that I could trust my friend to help me out, making life easier.
  2. People will know what to expect from you: With my former friend, it was impossible to know who’d you get with him. Was he going to help you out, or was he going to steal your love interest or endanger your safety? I never knew, and that wasn’t comforting.
  3. Your reputation will be positive: Would you like to be known as the person who never gets their work done and requires loads of help to pick up the slack? Never, we all want to be viewed positively by our peers as it will help us get to where we want to go. Even if you aren’t the best, people will respect that you are willing to be honest about what they can expect from you.
  4. You will be seen as a leader: While leaders don’t always get things right, they are consistent, and people like to work with consistency cause they don’t like surprises. A good lead shows appreciation and provides support, but they will have trouble building a team if they don’t have integrity.
  5. People will want to work with you in the future: When people see consistency in someone, they are more willing to be on that person’s team. If someone in your office or class always completes projects on time with good results, you’d likely want to work with them the next time you had the chance.

The key to living with integrity is doing the right thing all the time, especially when no one is watching. Some people only do good when there is an audience, but once that audience is gone, they become entirely different people. While that can work for a while, people start to pick up on the inconsistencies and lose trust.

Building strong, long-lasting relationships requires one to live with integrity.

If you found this article interesting, you might also be curious about what it means to take personal responsibility. I’ve also written why personal responsibility is important and why it is important to know yourself

Thanks for reading.

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Robert Carr

Over the years, I've learnt to see things in a different light. This website is my place to share those insights and give my unique perspective on living a meaningful life.

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