One of the most important things I can teach you as a father is how to have Integrity. It is a complex concept, and one that, like respect, many people misunderstand and misapply, to their own unhappiness.
To have Integrity means to work towards becoming one kind of man in action, deed, and thought. Everything you do is consistent with a single, good and positive character. You take being that man to be more important than pleasure, gain, or ease.
A man with Integrity tries not to lie, because he doesn’t say something he doesn’t mean.
A man with Integrity has a code of conduct he follows that ensures that his actions are always in tune with his values. A man of Integrity who values freedom has a code that tells him not to force others to do things. A Man who believes in kindness has rules for himself against being cold or cruel. That code is not negotiable – he doesn’t break it because it will earn him love, money, a better job, or anything else.
He realizes that everything he chooses defines his character. He knows that if he treats a waiter poorly, he can’t call himself a man who is respectful. He knows that if he chooses to ignore evidence just because it goes against his ideology, he can’t consider himself a man of Reason. You can’t just claim to be something and have that make it so. You must actually do those things in action.
I often help men become more in Integrity with themselves as a part of my coaching program. If I failed to do so, I would not be able to really help them be happier in their lives. A simple tool I teach them to get them started on the road to Integrity is this:
When you are faced with a hard choice, take specific names, places and times out of it. Instead of “Is it okay for me to skip out on the commitment I made to hang out with Aiden this weekend?” you would ask “Is it okay for me to skip out of commitments I make?” Then instead ask yourself if this is the kind of man you want to be: “Do I want to be the kind of man who skips out on the commitments he makes?”
This usually makes the choice very easy.
Having Integrity is about more than make choices in your life easy. It is about your mental health and well-being. A man who operates by a code in life and has high Integrity has a simpler approach to life; he can live in the present moment more, and is less prone to anxiety and depression. He has more energy, too because he is not dragging himself down with self-doubt or self-loathing that men without Integrity often suffer from. he learns that conflict is nothing to be afraid of, because he is forced to handle conflicts gently and assertively all the time.
It has its other benefits, too. if you know a man to have Integrity, then you can trust him to be honest, hard-working, and trustworthy. That means that Integrity will take you places because other people are attracted to your character. That is hard to argue with.
The philosopher Plato wrote a piece called The Republic (Ta Politia) about what it was to be truly a just person using metaphors about creating a country. It is, along with Ethics (which I shared with you here: The Nichomachean Ethics) one of the most important books in shaping our culture throughout history. Ultimately his arguments about what it is to be just teach us what it is to have Integrity – to rule ourselves with our head, not our heart or our loins. To make decisions based on what we think is right, not what feels good at the time. I will share it with you here: Plato-Republic
Son, Integrity is not always easy, but it is always worthwhile. I hope that I will be able to teach you a code and a way both thinking that will give you a good start in life, and that will help you make good and wise decisions about those the things in life where it is best to let you decide for yourself.